THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday, December 15 assured the public that it will continue to uphold human rights amid concerns of possible military abuses after Congress extended the martial law proclamation in Mindanao.
In a press briefing, AFP Chief Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero vowed that any soldier who violated the law will be held liable for their misdeeds, adding that the AFP’s Human Rights Office will actively monitor the activities of the troopers.
The military chief also assured the public that all human rights complaints would be listened to and acted upon.
“We have our mechanism to check on the discipline and misconduct of our soldiers to make sure that they are accountable and they are answerable for their misdeeds,” Guerrero noted.
Concerning the possibility of expanding the military rule nationwide, the AFP chief said, “Let us not talk about martial law for the whole country because our concern for now is the implementation of martial law in Mindanao.”
Duterte placed Mindanao under martial law and suspended the writ of habeas corpus in the area on May 23, following the attack of IS-inspired Maute terrorists in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. It was supposed to expire by the end of the year.
Earlier on Wednesday, December 13, Congress approved Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s request to retain martial law in Mindanao until December 31, 2018 for the “total eradication” of Islamic State (IS)-inspired terrorists and communists rebels in the area.
Critics, however, expressed concerns that the extension of martial law in Mindanao may serve as an opening for military abuses.
In a statement, human rights group Amnesty International (AI) described the granted extension request as “an ominous move that almost certainly signals further abuses in the months ahead.”
“Civilians in Mindanao have faced unlawful killings, destruction of their homes, ill-treatment and numerous other human rights abuses at the hands of Philippine armed forces and Islamist militants since the imposition of martial law,” AI claimed, adding that the violations in Marawi, “have been carried out with impunity.”
Duterte placed Mindanao under martial law and suspended the writ of habeas corpus in the area on May 23, following the attack of IS-inspired Maute terrorists in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.
Maute continuing its recruitment
In a separate press briefing, AFP Spokesperson Col. Edgard Arevalo confirmed that the remnants of the Maute terrorist group are continuing their recruitments in Mindanao.
“I cannot tell you if they doubled. But what I can tell you is they are continuing with their recruitment activities,” Arevalo told reporters, saying that the relatives of the militants and young residents in the areas were the most “vulnerable” to join the terrorist group.
“And that what is what we intensely are working on to prevent them from continuing to recruit these vulnerable sectors of our society,” he added.
According to him, the terrorists are “offering financial remunerations” and are also “continuously using social media in their recruitment activities.”
The AFP, however, assured that they are currently monitoring the recruitment activities in the area, and are coordinating with concerned government agencies to counter such entreaties.
“We have made efforts there. For example, we conduct dialogues among the youth to counter violent extremism,” Arevalo said.
“The objective is to make them realize and learn what is extremism, and how is recruitment being done by these extremists,” he added.