FORMER president Fidel Ramos came out against the Mindanao-wide martial law declared by President Rodrigo Duterte, as well as plans to extend it nationwide, warning against abuses under military rule.
Ramos told reporters the martial law declaration should have covered only a limited part of Mindanao, pointing out that it would affect a huge population – 28 million people – when the military pursuit of terrorists is in Marawi City, which has a population of only 200,000.
“That is what I’m really concerned about. Martial law all over Mindanao and its more than 28 million people may be proper in the eyes of the administration but there are enough peaceful areas there that do not need to be subjected to martial law,” Ramos said in a news conference in Makati City.
Ramos said the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police were capable enough to address the situation.
“We have seen how efficient our armed forces have been like the elimination of the Abu Sayyaf-Maute group in Bohol only last month,” Ramos added.
The former leader insisted that the government take strong measures in addressing the crisis without abusing human rights.
“They have to limit the violence without any violation of human rights,” he said.
Ramos also called on Duterte’s officials to stop talking about the expansion of martial rule to the Visayas and other parts of the country, to avoid sowing panic.
“This has created on the part of a lot of our people especially those who do not live in Mindanao, and also those living in Mindanao, a sense of fear and foreboding,” he said.
“I’m not saying that the President panicky. I am saying that some members in his delegation are making panicky statements. If it’s true that he has said that martial law may be extended to the Visayas and nationwide, then that is being panicky,” Ramos added
Not the best person
But for Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejecrcito, Ramos is not the best person to advise Duterte on the Mindanao issue.
Ejercito pointed out that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and other armed groups in Mindanao gained strength during the Ramos administration, adding that some of his officials were MILF members who used resources of the government to build rebel bunkers.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson said it would help the administration to resolve the crisis immediately if people would just let the government do what needed to be done.
“It goes without saying that we should remain vigilant for possible abuses in the implementation of martial law,” Lacson said.
Robredo says no to nationwide martial law
Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo also thumbed down President Duterte’s threat to declare martial law nationwide, but called on the public to support the government’s offensive against the Maute group.
“As it is, we don’t see any reason to extend martial law coverage to Visayas and Luzon. We are observing the martial law in Mindanao. We are looking forward to the guidelines of its implementation,” Robredo said.
“We won’t allow martial law to be an instrument of violence. We won’t allow it to pave the way towards that time when we have to fight a dictatorship. We don’t want it to happen again. But let me be clear that I support our President and the armed forces,” Robredo added.
The vice president was referring to the Martial Law regime of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos that left at least 70,000 victims of torture, extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.
“We need to be supportive of the administration because we are facing terrorism. This is not the time for division, but at the same time, we need to understand why a lot of people fear martial law,” Robredo said.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) expressed confidence on Friday that the Armed Forces of the Philippines would uphold the human rights of Mindanao residents.
“Further, we have faith in the constitutional guarantees and respect for all civil liberties and urge the security forces to adhere to the DND (Department of National Defense) and the PNP (Philippine National Police) refresher on ‘Martial Law Do’s and Don’ts,’” CHR spokeswoman Jacqueline de Guia said in a text message to The Manila Times.
with LLANESCA T. PANTI