The government will look into the reported human rights abuses in Mindanao, a spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte said on Saturday, month after the chief executive placed the entire region under martial law in response to the siege of Marawi City by Islamic State-linked armed groups.
In a statement, Undersecretary Ernesto Abella said the Duterte administration would not allow any member of the police and the military to violate human rights and the Constitution.
“The President, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP), and the Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary who is the Mindanao administrator for Martial Law do not encourage or tolerate abuses by the military or the police in Mindanao or elsewhere,” Abella said.
“We will investigate and if evidence warrants, prosecute and punish all those who committed abuses, especially sexual violence against women,” he added.
Abella made the statement after the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) – Lanao del Sur Chapter denounced the alleged illegal search and seizure operations by security forces in Marawi City.
In a statement dated June 9, the lawyers’ group in Lanao del Sur province said that while it supported Duterte’s imposition of martial rule in Mindanao, it would not turn a blind eye to human rights violations that would be committed during its implementation.
“The IBP-Lanao del Sur Chapter hereby expressed its severe outrage and condemnation over illegal searches and seizure in Marawi City by military men, police and other law enforcement agencies which results in rampant loss and deprivation of properties and possessions of innocent civilians,” the lawyers’ group said.
But Abella said that the Commission on Human Rights has not received any rights abuses in Mindanao, a mother after the declaration of martial law.
He said individuals who experienced violations arising from martial law should go to proper authorities.
“We do note the recent report of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) that found no evidence of abuse of martial law in Mindanao. Should there be, proper complaints must be promptly filed,” Abella said.
“In the meantime, unless based on fact and evidence, we ask critics and advocates to be more considerate in their judgment of the efforts and context of our soldiers’ challenges, and be more supportive of their efforts to protect the Filipino Way of Life,” he added.