Marawi rights victims urged to file cases vs soldiers

By Michael Punongbayan

MANILA, Philippines - Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has urged alleged victims of human rights abuses in Marawi City to come out and file appropriate complaints against those responsible.

“Huwag po kayong matakot (don’t be afraid). 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 yesterday.

Lorenzana said some groups and individuals have claimed that there are cases of human rights abuses under martial law in Mindanao but these were not reported. 

“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,” he declared.

Lorenzana, the designated administrator of martial law in Mindanao, said the government would never allow members of the security forces to tarnish the good image and reputation painstakingly built over the years.

Lorenzana said the Department of National Defense (DND) and the military have made it clear from the very start that all operations under martial law would be based on the rule of law and respect for human rights, regardless of religion, ethnicity or ideology. 

He said DND and the military have opposed calls for the issuance of identification cards for Muslims in Central Luzon since it 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,” he stressed. 

Lorenzana said to prevent abuses the government has deployed human rights officers of the military and lawyers on the ground to help guide soldiers in performing their expanded duties and responsibilities under martial law. 

The Armed Forces said 97 soldiers and policemen have so far been killed in clashes between troopers and members of the Maute group in Marawi City.

The military said another soldier has been listed as missing and some 852 have been wounded since the Maute group attacked Marawi last May 23.

Among the soldiers who died in combat were 12 troops accidentally hit in surgical air strikes by the Air Force.

The military said 411 Maute terrorist were killed 511 firearms recovered.

The terrorists as of July 16 also killed some 45 civilians.

President Duterte’s 60-day martial law in Mindanao is scheduled to end on July 22 with no clear decision yet on whether it will be lifted or extended. 

The military said the Maute group is still showing strong resistance in Marawi City but their numbers are definitely dwindling and with it their fighting capability.

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