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Philippine bishops warn against martial law extension

Decision to prolong military rule should reflect views of Mindanao residents, they say

Philippine bishops warn against martial law extension

Philippine security forces patrol a neighborhood in the city of Iligan in Mindanao at the height of the implementation of martial law in the region. (Photo by Mark Saludes)


Joe Torres, Manila

July 17, 2017

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Philippine Catholic bishops have expressed apprehension over the possible extension of the state of martial law across the country's southern region of Mindanao.

The church leaders, however, said people in Mindanao should be consulted about whether military rule should continue in the face of the ongoing conflict on the island.

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law across Mindanao for 60 days on May 23 following an Islamic State-inspired terrorist attack on the city of Marawi. It is due to end on July 22. 

The Philippine Supreme Court affirmed the declaration of martial law legitimate.

A nationwide survey by pollster Social Weather Stations show that a majority of Filipinos support Duterte's martial law declaration. 

A bigger number, however, expressed opposition to the declaration's possible expansion to the Luzon and Visayas regions.

Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan, vice president of the Catholic bishops' conference, said people in Mindanao should be asked their opinion on the issue.

"Maybe instead of getting the view of 'the majority of Filipinos' the survey should find out more specifically if the majority of people in Mindanao agree with extending martial law," said the prelate.

Other church leaders said the government should look at the situation on the ground objectively before deciding to end or extend martial law.

"To determine appropriateness and decide now is unrealistic," said Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu in the central Philippines who said he supports martial law.

Archbishop Martin Jumoad of Ozamiz said he also supports martial law "but for the extension, our president and legislators must evaluate the situation."

Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon said he is opposed to the idea of extending military rule, saying it would only worsen the situation in the region.

Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo of Kidapawan in Mindanao said he expects people in Mindanao to support martial law "with all the news about the Islamic State and Marawi."

"Many pray that this won’t spread to other places," he said. "Many also agree with the Mindanao bishops' position that martial law is and should be temporary," he added.

Bishop Bagaforo said "better governance and poverty alleviation" should be pursued relentlessly to address terrorism.

On July 17, National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa announced that he has recommended to the president that martial law be extended in Mindanao.

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