Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has deplored the rampant human rights violations in Mindanao more than a year after the Duterte administration has placed the entire region under the state of martial law.
De Lima, a known human rights defender, filed Senate Resolution No. (SRN) 768 seeking an appropriate Senate committee(s) to investigate the widespread reports of human rights abuses in Mindanao, especially by government forces.
“We are faced with an ironic situation wherein what should have been used as an opportunity to bring peace and order in Mindanao is used as an opportunity to even violate our constitutionally-guaranteed human rights and international humanitarian law,” she said.
More than a year since Mr. Duterte has placed the entire Mindanao under martial law, international and local non-governmental organizations have raised an alert on several incidents of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.
Last November, London-based Amnesty International (AI) released a detailed report chronicling various alleged human rights violations during the Marawi crisis in Mindanao, purportedly committed by government forces and terrorist group, Maute.
While government forces had rescued 1,780 hostages from the Maute group, AI further noted in its report that they have violated the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment of people in their custody.
In December, local human rights group Karapatan claimed that two small-scale miner-farmer, one of whom was a minor, were illegally arrested and tortured purportedly by members of the military.
Last month, Karapatan also released a report claiming that 49 victims of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) in Mindanao – or an average of one victim was killed every week since the region was placed under the rule of martial law.
It also claimed it has documented 22 cases of torture, 116 victims of frustrated EJKs, 89 victims of illegal arrest and detention, and 336,124 victims of indiscriminate gunfire and aerial bombings where at least 404,654 individuals were displaced.
De Lima, a former chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights, said it is unfortunate that the Philippines, a party to various international human rights treaties, allow human rights and international humanitarian law from happening unchecked. “Under international law, our State has an obligation, not only to respect, but (also) to take positive action to ensure that international human rights standards are indeed implemented, and enforced,” she said.
The Senator from Bicol pointed out that the State is required “to initiate a prompt, effective and impartial investigation on the alleged abuses” whether they are committed by state or non-state actors.
“In these challenging times in Mindanao, the State is duty-bound to uphold the primacy of human rights, especially in ensuring that duty bearers act in strict accordance with human rights and the international humanitarian law,” she added.
The Philippines is a contracting party to at least four Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol II since 1949.