By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
MANILA, Philippines – On May 23, President Rodrigo Duterte of Philippines declared 60 days of martial law in Mindanao. Currently, 21 million people are living under martial law. The order came after the failed attempt to apprehend Isnilon Hapilon, a terrorist leader associated with the Islamic State. Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups is known for kidnapping and decapitating westerners.
An estimated 400-500 fighters took over parts of Mindanao and attempted to create an Islamic caliphate. According to the head of military command in Western Mindanao, the militants control around 20 percent of the town. Around 200,000 civilians fled once the conflict began and hundreds are being held hostage. Currently, 100 militants are still fighting.
The conflict in Marawi City entered its fourth week as of June 13, and President Rodrigo Duterte stated that martial law will continue. More than 180 government troops and 200 militants have died from the battle.
Recently, President Duterte stated that he is willing to extend martial law for the region and continue the battle until the militants are completely destroyed. However, according to the constitution, martial law in the country cannot last longer than 60 days.
The opposition party in the country argued that the imposed law is unconstitutional and have asked the country’s supreme court to rule on the matter. President Duterte stated that he will revoke marital law if the Supreme Court finds it unconstitutional. Nevertheless, President Duterte also commented that if the militants continue to attack Mindanao, he will be “forced to declare martial law again.” He went further and said that he will “not consult anybody” and there is “no telling when it will end.”
President Duterte compared his order to dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The former president ruled the country under martial law from 1972 to 1981 to control communist rebels. During this time, many organizations have reported that the order allowed for human rights abuses by the administration.
Under the current order, many groups also fear human rights abuses in the country as President Duterte attempts to extend martial law in Mindanao.
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