By Alexis Romero (philstar.com)
Photo: Armored Personnel Carriers drive to the frontline in the continuing assaults to retake control of some areas of Marawi city Sunday, May 28, 2017 in southern Philippines. Philippine forces launched fresh airstrikes Sunday to drive out militants linked to the Islamic State group after days of fighting left corpses in the streets and hundreds of civilians begging for rescue from a besieged southern city. AP/Bullit Marquez
MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang is ready to prosecute and to punish those who commit abuses under the martial law in Mindanao even as it urged critics to be “considerate” in their judgment of the efforts of security forces on the ground.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines Lanao del Sur Chapter has claimed that the military rule in Mindanao, which was imposed by President Rodrigo Duterte last May 23 after a series of terrorist attacks in Marawi, has led to abuses like warrantless searches of houses and commercial establishments.
The lawyers’ group said government forces in Mindanao also ransacked and illegally intruded into residential and commercial establishments and disregarded the plain view doctrine in searches and seizures.
According to the group, the military and police disregarded the right against deprivation of property without due process of law, the right to be secure in one's person, house, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures and the privacy of communication and correspondence of innocent civilians.
Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella maintained that the government does not condone any form of abuses or illegal activity.
“We will investigate and if evidence warrants, prosecute and punish all those who committed abuses, especially sexual violence against women,” Abella said in a statement on Saturday.
“The President, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, and the Department of National Defense 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,” he added.
Abella cited a recent statement by the Commission on Human Rights that it has yet to find evidence of abuse in areas under martial law.
“Should there be, proper complaints must be properly filed,” the presidential spokesman said.
Abella appealed to critics to support the government forces’ efforts to secure the areas plagued by terrorists.
“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 said.
In a press conference in Davao City last Friday, Abella called on critics to “grow up” and to be “more sophisticated.”
“We are actually supposed to be united against a common enemy. And actually, what we are having is, somebody trying to establish a state within a state,” Abella said, referring to the Islamic State.
“That is a clear and present danger. You know, what don’t you get about that? You know, I think it is about time that we really just grew up and became more mature, and became more politically more sophisticated and actually, aside from that, we’re really just more concerned and supportive of one another,” he added.
Abella also clarified that the government is providing enough support to security forces in Marawi after the military launched its “Support our Troops” campaign.
The campaign, which was being led by the Armed Forces Civil Relations Service, involves the selling of statement shirts meant to drum up public support for soldiers in the battlefield.
“The government has provided enough assistance to the families of our fallen soldiers,” Abella said.
“The Support Our Troops Campaign is an initiative of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to boost the morale of our soldiers in the battlefield by showing that fellow Filipinos rally behind Filipino soldiers in fighting the terrorist rebels in Marawi,” he added.