Prottests agains martial law in the southern Philippines and clashes between security forces and a local terrorist group in Mindanao made Independence Day celebrations on June 12 "a farce," according to a Catholic bishop. "As long as there is martial law and unrest in Marawi City, the 'independence' of our nation is a farce," said Bishop Arturo Bastes from northern Sorsogon Diocese. The celebration has been marred by protest rallies and demonstrations condemning ongoing clashes and martial law in Mindanao. Bishop Bastes said by declaring martial law, the government "trample[s] on the freedom of citizens." "People are not in the mood for celebrating" the nation’s independence, Bishop Bastes said, adding in a way he supported the demonstrations against the declaration of martial law.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law across the southern region of Mindanao on May 23 after the Maute, a local terrorist group, claiming to have ties with the so-called Islamic State, attempted to occupy Marawi, following a failed attempt by security forces to capture a leading terrorist. In retaliation, the terrorists invaded the city’s cathedral and took Fr. Teresito Suganob, the vicar-general of the Prelature of Marawi, and several staff as hostage.
Almost the entire population of about 200,000 fled from Marawi , but still some 500-1,000 civilians are believed to be trapped or held hostage. As of Saturday the number of security forces killed in the battle for Marawi stood at 58. The death toll for civilians was 20 and more than 100 had been killed overall.
Bishop Ruperto Santos of Bataan said the crisis in the southern Philippines is a call for all Filipinos to be "more patriotic, to be truly one, and united to love and labor for the good of the country." "We should work together to build our country, not to break it, to do our best and be a blessing to one another, not to divide nor destroy," said the prelate.
119th Philippine Independence Day
Filipinos celebrated the country's 119th Independence Day on Monday. It was the first time since the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos that the country was celebrating Independence Day with a portion of the country under martial law. In flag-raising ceremonies in Marawi City, soldiers and civilians wept to see the southern city being destroyed. Gunfire and the sound of explosions from air strikes could be heard.
In Manila, Duterte skipped the flag-raising ceremony at the Rizal Park. Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, who represented the President, said Duterte was not feeling well. The President, in his Independence Day message, earlier urged Filipinos to preserve Philippine sovereignty.
Bishops, others petition SC intervention on martial law
Last week, 3 other bishops have joined a petition asking the Supreme Court to compel Congress to hold a joint session and review President Duterte’s martial law in Mindanao. The petition was filed on Wednesday by Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo and Mother Adelaida Ygrubay, OSB, along with several student council leaders. Bishop Pabillo said the joint session is necessary to find out, once and for all, if a martial law is necessary in the entire Mindanao.
Other petitioners include Bishop Antonio Tobias of Novaliches and Bishop Emeritus Deogracias Iniguez of Kalookan and former senator Wigberto Tañada. Earlier, opposition lawmakers had filed a petition before the SC to question the legality of the martial law.
Catholic bishops in Mindanao had earlier acknowledged the need for martial law in the strife-torn region but only as a “temporary” measure. (Source: UCAN/CBCP News)