While skeptical of reports claiming human rights abuses being perpetuated by security troops deployed for martial law duty in Mindanao, Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has urged alleged victims to surface and file complaints so that they can be given legal redress.
To this, I strongly encourage these groups and alleged victims of excesses by government security forces to come forward, present your evidence, and file charges in the proper courts. Huwag po kayong matakot. If indeed some of our soldiers are found guilty of committing excesses under martial law, then we will not hesitate to administer the appropriate sanctions against these individuals, while ensuring that due process is followed,” he said in a statement Monday.
In the same vein, the DND chief stressed that they will never condone such violations, adding that such acts damage the reputation of the military and defense establishments.
“We will never allow anyone within the defense and security establishments to tarnish the good image and reputation that we have painstakingly built over the years. That is why we have decided in the past that only our best men and women should be allowed to operate in critical areas such as Marawi City and elsewhere in Mindanao, and that our Muslim brothers and sisters should not be singled out in our operations since terrorism goes beyond any religion or creed,” he added.
Martial law in Mindanao was declared after Maute Group terrorists conducted a series of unprovoked attacks against civilian and military targets in Marawi City after a botched attempt to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader and ISIS emir in Southeast Asia, Isnilon Hapilon, last May 23.
“We have made it clear from the very start that all our operations under martial law will be based on the rule of law and respect for human rights of all, regardless of religion, ethnicity or ideology. That is why we have also opposed calls for an ID system for Muslims only since this is discriminatory. We believe that if an ID system is adopted, it should be national in scope, and should apply to every citizen of the republic,” Lorenzana pointed out.
And in line with efforts to prevent abuses, the DND chief said the military has deployed human rights officers and lawyers on the ground to help soldiers in performing their expanded duties and responsibilities under martial law.
“My trust and confidence in the professionalism and integrity of the Armed Forces, however, remains strong. Naniniwala akong gagawin ng ating kasundaluhan kung ano ang nararapat alinsunod sa batas at hindi nila kailanman tatalikuran ang kanilang sinumpaang tungkulin – ang ipagtanggol ang bansa at sambayanang Pilipino, kahit kapalit ang sarili nilang buhay,” Lorenzana pointed out. (Priam F. Nepomuceno/PNA)