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Philippine military eyes martial law extension in Mindanao

Tribal school network voiced fierce opposition to prolonging emergency rule in region for another year

Joe Torres, Manila

Joe Torres, Manila

Published: November 15, 2018 09:56 AM GMT

Updated: November 15, 2018 10:01 AM GMT

Philippine military eyes martial law extension in Mindanao

Tribal schoolchildren from the southern Philippine region of Mindanao join a demonstration in Manila to protest the implementation of martial law in the region. (Photo by Jire Carreon)

A proposal by the Philippine military to extend martial law across the southern region of Mindanao for another year has been roundly condemned by tribal schools.

The military said on Nov. 14 that it was keen to extend the martial law period until the end of 2019.

However, the Save Our Schools (SOS) Network said tribal schoolchildren would have to live through another year of harassment and displacement if military rule was to continue.

The organization refuted government claims that police or military personnel had committed no human rights abuses since martial law was introduced 17 months ago. 

The network claimed it has documented 535 attacks on tribal schools affecting 2,460 schoolchildren and teachers in the past year.

"Tribal schools have been attacked by the military on the basis of martial law and the unfounded claim that these schools are communist fronts," said Rius Valle, a spokesman for the group.

He said martial law in Mindanao has "deprived tribal children of their rights and freedoms."

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao shortly after Islamic State-inspired gunmen occupied the city of Marawi in May last year.

The military ended the conflict after five months of fighting.

The Philippine Congress extended martial law twice at the request of Duterte who cited continuing threats from terrorist groups. The last extension remains in effect until the end of the year.

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In the military's Nov. 14 announcement, Philippine armed forces chief General Carlito Galvez Jr. said the military would recommend the extension of martial law, citing the result of military assessments and reported favorable feedback from local officials in the region.

"We saw that most local government units were recommending the extension of martial law," said the general, adding that most governors in Mindanao wanted martial law extended in their areas.

Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said the armed forces will "more likely" recommend the extension of martial law, which he said has resulted in the "successful conduct of security operations against various threats."

Arevalo said the military has not received any "documented complaint" about military abuses during the martial law period.

"How about the killing of two tribal students and eight members of parent-teacher-community associations of schools? What about the 111 cases involving trumped up charges and illegal arrests of teachers and parents?" said Valle of the SOS Network.

He said extending martial law was not about ensuring peace and order, "but pacifying and clearing out communities for the expansion of large-scale mining and agri-plantations in Mindanao."

"They are pushing for business over services, foreigners over the Filipinos and tribal people," said Valle, adding that people in Mindanao should resist any extension of martial law.

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