Mindanao martial law contributes to human rights abuses in PH — group

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 10) — Local human rights watchdog Karapatan countered the government and national police's statements that there have not been any human rights violations in Mindanao, where a martial law is currently in effect.

The human rights group said the current situation in Mindanao has been a factor in the cases of human rights violations in the country.

"We are still a long way para mapanagot hindi lang 'yung direct perpetrators kundi sa mga government officials na nag-order directly, nag-encourage at nanulsol sa mga pulisya para pumatay ng walang habas," Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

[Translation: We are still a long way to make accountable not only the direct perpetrators, but also the government officials who directly ordered, encouraged, and paid police to kill.]

President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday penned a request for Congress to extend martial law in Mindanao for one more year until the end of 2019. The country's chief executive cited the ongoing threats of terrorism and rebellion as reason for extension.

Extending martial law will likewise help the government sustain gains it achieved in the past year, he added.

READ: Duterte to Congress: Don't give rebels a chance to strengthen forces

Karapatan condemned Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Oscar Albayalde's claim that no human rights violations occurred during the Mindanao martial law implementation. Albayalde earlier said the police haven't heard of a single case in the area.

"We condemn the statements of Malacanang that there is no human rights violation in Mindanao because there [were] no cases filed. We beg to disagree," Palabay said.

"Mas marami pang violation na maaaring di nare-report o napa-file sa korte dahil namamayani ang impunity sa mga komunidad," she added.

[Translation: There are a lot of violations that are not reported or filed before the courts because of the impunity in the area.]

In celebration of the International Human Rights Day, several human rights groups and activists staged protests and activities on Monday. Protesters said the human rights abuses cannot be buried underneath a mountain of pressing issues confronting the country.

They said these violations must be brought forth since the human rights situation mirrors the true state of democracy in a country.

Gov't drug war: Protects or abuses?

In a statement Monday, the government said the fight against illegal drugs will remain steadfast "to protect innocent Filipinos."

But Karapatan remained clear on its stand that the administration's unrelenting drug war is among the reasons why human rights abuses prevail in the country.

In a media briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo maintained the President still advocates human rights-- despite the backlash.

"Of course (the President respects human rights," Panelo said. "We have been saying so and we have shown it. We prosecute people who violate human rights."

"Human rights as depicted by the critics as well as those critics from abroad do not reflect what is happening on the ground. When they keep on saying that many have been killed, they make it appear as if the killings are state-initiated," the spokesman added.

Panelo also mentioned the fact that policemen are killed during operations is a rebuttal to theories that these killings have been state-initiated.

"Killings only come in connection with police operations when the suspects resist violently and endanger the lives of those in the operation."

The Duterte administration's war on drugs, which left almost 5,000 people dead as of October 2018, has been heavily criticized by local and international human rights organizations and defenders.

This month, the International Criminal Court said a preliminary investigation on the government's drug war will continue despite the Philippines' withdrawal from the Rome Statute.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Gerg Cahiles contributed to this report.