'Uncalled for' martial law poses threats to Mindanaoans' rights — Gutoc

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 27) — Despite recent incidents including deadly bomb blasts in the south, senatorial hopeful Samira Gutoc believes martial law in Mindanao is "uncalled for" and poses threats to certain rights of residents

At CNN Philippines' second Senatorial Forum on Sunday, Gutoc said the imposed military rule in the Minanao, which has been extended for another year, should not be justified.

"There is no invasion, there's no lawless rebellion," the former Bangsamoro Transition Commission member said during the program at Ateneo De Manila University.

Gutoc also addressed the twin bomb blasts that tore through a cathedral in Jolo, Sulu, but maintained there's no need for a widened martial law.

"We thought that we should be strengthening more our peacekeeping measures," she added.

"I feel that martial law is uncalled for, we have a freedom of press, it should be guaranteed. The right to liberty and motion should be guaranteed, and it is under threat under martial law."

Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay echoed the sentiment.

"Si President Erap (Estrada), pinasok niya ang Camp Abubakar, nag-deklara ba siya ng batas militar? Hindi. Si Presidente (Noynoy) Aquino, Zamboanga siege, Sulu seige, nagdeklara ba siya ng batas militar? Hindi. Ang pagdedeklara ng batas militar ay usaping legal at kontstitusyonal, hindi (kung) komportable ba ang mga tao doon o hindi," Hilbay said during the forum.

[Translation: President Erap went inside Camp Abubakar, but did he declare martial law? No. President Aquino, there were the Zamboanga siege, the Sulu siege, but did he declare martial law? No. The declaration of martial law should be on a legal and constitutional basis-- and not if the people in there are comfortable.]

At least 20 people were reported killed, while dozens of others were injured when two bombs exploded within minutes Sunday at the cathedral in Jolo.

The attack came days after the Commission on Elections proclaimed the ratification of the Bangsamoro law creating a new Muslim autonomous region, and while martial law remains imposed in the southern third of the country.

Former Interior Secretary Raffy Alunan, however, said martial law is still favored by Mindanaoans.

"They consider it a preventive measure because Mindanao still has many threats-- banditry, terrorism, insurgency," Alunan countered.

"What happened in Jolo is another case in point. I think to the extent that the people in Mindanao are comfortable and safe and secure, because of martial law, then let's grant it to the people of Mindanao," he added.

Alunan, however, clarified the current situation in Mindanao is different from that of the iron-fist rule of former President Ferdinand Marcos' era.

"The important thing is martial law in Mindanao is not the same as the Marcos era. These guys are laid back. They act to prevent acts of terrorism," he added.

Gutoc and Alunan were among the seven senatorial hopefuls who took part in forum alongside former Rep. Neri Colmenares, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, former Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, and former Rep. Erin Tañada.

In a joint session on December 12, 2018, Congress approved President Rodrigo Duterte's request to extend martial law in the South for the third time.

Lawmakers voted 235-28 to extend the rule until the end of 2019.

Martial law was first proclaimed in 2017 in the wake of a terrorist attack on Marawi City in May.