Church leaders voice concern over martial law declaration in the Philippines

 

Church leaders voice concern over martial law declaration in the Philippines

Author: 

George Conger

The President of the Philippines has placed the southern island of Mindanao under martial law after Islamist terrorists invaded the city of Marawi on 23 May 2017. President Roderigo Duterte placed Mindanao’s 27 provinces, home to over 20 million people after approximately 100 members of the Maute terrorist group, an Islamist group linked to ISIS,  invaded the city of 200,000.

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Marawi told the Agenzia Fides news service the terrorists attacked St Mary’s Cathedral while services were under way for the feast of “Mary, help of Christians”.  Bishop Edwin de la Pena reported: “The faithful were in church to pray on the last day of the novena. The terrorists broke into the church, took the hostages and led them to an unknown location. They entered the bishop's residence and kidnapped the vicar general, Fr. Soganub Dewatering. Then they set fire to the cathedral and the bishop's residence. Everything is destroyed. We are dismayed".

The bishop, who was on a pastoral visit to a rural parish when the attack took place, said: "The terrorists have occupied the city. People are terrified and locked in the house. We are waiting for the army's reaction. The important thing is to regain the city with the least possible bloodshed. Hostages have not been mentioned. We have activated our channels, the Church and Islamic leaders and we hope to be able to negotiate soon so they are released safe and sound.”

In addition to the cathedral, the terrorists seized the city jail, hospital and other municipal buildings. The United Church of Christ in the Philippines released a statement saying the terrorists also seized the church-run Dansalan College, burning the library, science labs, and administration building.

President Duterte was on a visit to Moscow with the attack took place and declared martial law while on his flight home to Manila. Maute, also known as the Islamic State of Lanao, is a radical Islamist group composed of former Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters, who broke away from the group after it began peace talks with the government.

Church leaders are concerned the president’s declaration of martial law for the province was overbroad, and his actions unconstitutional.  The prime bishop of the Episcopal Church of the Philippines, the Most Rev. Renato Abibico on Facebook stated: “I am not a lawyer, neither a Constitutionalist, but isn't it that the declaration of Martial Law should be confirmed by congress?”  

“Where we are now heading to as a nation,” Bishop Abibico asked.

Bishop Jose Collin Bagaforo of Kidapawan in Mindanao told UCAN he believed the declaration of martial law should have been confined to Marawi, "not all of Mindanao," while the Redemptorist Fr. Amado Picardal, head of the Basic Ecclesial Communities of the bishops' conference, said declaring martial law across Mindanao while only Marawi was attacked "is either idiotic or an excuse to expand dictatorial control."

Filipino church and civic leaders have voiced concern over the declaration of martial law by President Duterte, noting that President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law over all the Philippines in 1972 in the face of a low level Communist insurgency, and used it to consolidate his power and crush opposition political parties. President Marcos lifted martial law in 1981. Under the country's post-Marcos 1987 constitution, the president must go to Congress with his declaration of martial law, and Congress has the authority to reject the declaration.

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