An organization of Moro activists has called on the Duterte government to immediately revoke its martial law declaration in the entire Mindanao island amid the raging firefights between government troops and alleged armed elements of the Moro rebel Maute group.
Suara Bangsamoro, an organization of advocates for human rights among Moro people and their right to self-determination, said the martial law declaration will only further enable the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to intensify attacks on supposed terrorists thereby endangering more civilians.
Declared on the evening of May 25 as President Duterte rushed back to the country from a state visit in Russia, the martial law declaration covers the entire Mindanao for a period of 60 days, according to Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella.
“We fear for the lives of the civilians who might get caught in the crossfire. We fear for the effects of war to the civilian population,” said Jerome Succor Aba, spokesperson for Suara Bangsamoro.
The group asked the President to refrain from further militarizing the city of Marawi in an effort to purge it from armed elements of the Moro rebel Maute group.
As of this writing, and even before the martial law declaration, Suara already received reports that state forces are planning to conduct aerial and artillery bombings on selected targets in Marawi.
On evening of May 23, firefight between members of Maute group, allegedly affiliated with the Islamic State (ISIS) “terrorist” group, and elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have erupted in Marawi City. Caught in crossfires are a civilian populace.
Suara Bangsamoro has also urged the government to conduct negotiations with the Maute group to avoid further bloodshed and destruction among the civilian populace.
Aba suggested that the Duterte government tap the Moro leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Moro National Liberation Front, and other religious leaders to talk to the Maute group.
“(But) the diplomatic talks between Moro leaders and the Maute group will not prosper if the AFP will continue its military operations and bombings,” Aba said, expressing hope that the situation can be resolved peacefully.
Aba said their group also called on the government to look into reports that Norberto Gonzales, a former National Security Adviser of President Gloria Arroyo, was seen in a meeting with the Maute group and members of the bandit Abu Sayyaf Group days prior to the attacks.
The group pointed to allegations of involvement of the US-Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the formation of “terror” groups such as ISIS and even the Abu Sayyaf Group in Mindanao, and said these groups are possibly being used to justify greater US military intervention in the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific region.
“This is a challenge for the Moro people, not to allow our legitimate struggle be used to fodder militaristic interests of US and their cohorts in the country,” said Aba.