Mindanao bishops are “not against” the imposition of martial law in Mindanao but said it should be “temporary” and the public should be vigilant against possible abuses.
The Palace welcomed the position of Mindanao bishops, even seeing it as a form of support for martial law in the Southern Philippines. “The government appreciates support from all sectors, no matter how nuanced,” Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
Cotabato Cardinal Orlando Quevedo said on Friday that Catholic bishops in Southern Philippines do not oppose one-man rule in Mindanao, adding the Church has no “solid and sufficient” evidence to dismiss the proclamation of martial law there as “morally reprehensible.”
He, however, said that martial law must only be “temporary” and must not be a gateway for abuses.
“We have many fears but at present, we simply do not have solid and sufficient facts to absolutely reject the declaration of Martial law as morally reprehensible,” Quevedo said in a pastoral guidance.
“We shall condemn any abuse of martial law and as in the past will condemn it outright if it goes in the way of evil. Let us be vigilant,” he added.
Abella assured that mechanisms to prevent and address human rights abuses are in place.
He added that the current military operations at present are different from the past, or during martial law under the Marcos regime.
“Such mechanisms are in place, and this will differentiate this military action from the past,” Abella said.
On Tuesday, President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao, following the clashes between government forces and Islamic State-inspired Maute group in Marawi City.
Maute reportedly torched several private and public establishments in the city, including a Church, and abducted parish priest Teresito Suganob and a number of Church personnel and teachers.
The Palace official expressed hope that fellow Church leaders of Ozamiz City Archibishop Martin Jumoad would follow Quevedo’s example and be supportive of Duterte’s declaration of martial law.
“We laud the good bishop’s support of the President’s war against violent extremism in Mindanao. We hope his fellow bishops and other clergy follow his example for their parishes, and prioritize the peace and safety of the people,” Abella said.
“Placing his diocesan’s well-being above all else, he [Jumoad] also encourages the citizens to be extra careful and to cooperate with the military,” he added.
Abella also urged leaders of the Muslim community to speak out against terror jihadist groups and denounce their barbarity especially during the holy month of Ramadan.
“We also call on Muslim leaders to speak out against terrorist groups, who use religion to disguise their barbarity, staining the peaceful name of Islam with the blood of innocents during this holy month of Ramadan,” Abella said.
Meanwhile, Abella urged the public to take a moment to remember some of the first casualties in the Marawi attacks. They are Marawi City Police Senior Inspector and Intelligence Unit Chief Freddie Manuel Solar, from Baguio City, and two members of Special Forces, First Lieutenant John Carl Morales and Special Forces Marlon Baldovino, both of Kabacan, North Cotabato.
“May they rest in peace, and may we be faithful to honor the ultimate sacrifice of their lives in the service of their country,” he said.