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SEPT. 1, 2018

PHILIPPINE NEWS

Another Martial Law Extension Eyed After Kudarat Bombing Leaves 3 Dead, 36 Wounded

MANILA, Philippines — Martial law in Mindanao, already extended for one year, may again be extended after Tuesday night’s bombing in Sultan Kudarat that left three people dead and several others wounded, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said yesterday.

“It is an option. We are trying to make it as easy as possible, but with what is happening, what are we going to do? We will assess the situation. We will look at it. Anyway, we are still under a state of lawless violence and martial law,” Medialdea told reporters at the House of Representatives.

That the Sultan Kudarat explosion happened even with martial law still in effect in Mindanao indicated that there might be a need to extend it, Medialdea said.

“These signs are not good. Lives are in danger. The terrorists may still be there,” he said. Malacañang condemned the bombing and vowed to apply the “full force of the law” against the perpetrators.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the government is determined to identify those who are behind the bombing attack.

Roque agreed with Medialdea that extending martial law in Mindanao is an option because of last Tuesday’s bombing attack.

In May last year, President Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao and suspended the writ of habeas corpus to allow government forces to wipe out the Maute group of terrorists who had seized Marawi City.

The declaration was supposed to be good for 60 days under the Constitution. Before it expired, the President asked Congress to extend it up to the end of December 2017.

Before the December extension ended, Duterte again requested his congressional allies to lengthen it up to the end of this year.

Officials said the bomb was concealed in a bag and exploded, leaving at least three people dead and 34 others wounded during the Isulan town celebration.

Regional police spokesman Supt. Aldrin Gonzalez said the fatalities included a seven-year-old girl identified as Devy Shane Alayon, and Leny Dohina Ombrog, 51, who were among the crowd celebrating the Hamungaya Festival.

A civilian told authorities about a suspicious bag left by a man near the gathering, regional military commander Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said.

The bomb exploded while troops were running after the suspect, who escaped in the confusion, he said.

Gonzales, however, gave a different account and said the homemade bomb was placed on a motorcycle parked in front of a store near a popular night market in Isulan, which was celebrating its founding anniversary.

“The area has been put under control, it’s been cordoned and the injured have been taken to the hospital,” Sobejana told reporters.

Initial reports said the improvised explosive device (IED) was placed in a tricycle parked along the busy street in Barangay Kalawag, where a crowd was watching the celebration.

The IED was triggered by a mobile phone, officials said.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but local officials and the military tagged the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters behind the bombing. The BIFF issued a statement denying the attack.

Government forces have been on alert in restive regions in Mindanao in recent weeks due to intelligence reports that Muslim militants, who have sustained battle setbacks in government offensives, planned to carry out bombings in public areas, military officials said.

Last month, a bomb-laden van exploded in a powerful blast in Lamitan, Basilan that killed 11 people, including the suspected foreign militant who drove the vehicle.

‘No extension’

Vice President Leni Robredo led several officials in opposing the possible extension of martial law in Mindanao.

“There is martial law there, but we have seen in the past months that it didn’t prevent violence. There was bombing in Lamitan, and (Tuesday) night in Sultan Kudarat. Terrorist activities continue to happen. So what is the assurance that another extension of martial law could prevent these from happening?” she said.

Robredo urged the administration to carefully study the situation and explore other options that could be more effective in stopping violence. National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said in a text message that he was “not even thinking about martial law.”

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said it would be “too early” to recommend the extension of martial law following last Tuesday’s bombing.

“Of course, it is an option, but too early in the day to make a recommendation. We’ll see what happens in the next several months,” Lorenzana said.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said it was premature to be talking about a possible extension of martial law in Mindanao beyond the end of this year

Sotto said he does not see the need to extend martial law at this time in spite of the bombing incident in Sultan Kudarat.

“Maybe within a month or two the issue there would be resolved. It is not the time to think and talk about this. There is no necessity,” he said.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said it was too early for Medialdea to float the possible extension of martial law.

“This (Sultan Kudarat bombing) incident even showed martial law’s failure in solving the island’s security problems. Instead of extending, it should be immediately lifted,” he said. (www.philstar.com)

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EJK Victims’ Kin Sue Duterte Before ICC

MANILA, Philippines — For the first time, relatives of victims of extrajudicial killings yesterday filed a complaint for crimes against humanity against President Duterte before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The complainants called Duterte the mastermind of the “state-sponsored killings” of drug suspects, mostly from poor families, and described those killed as victims of his “murderous rage.”

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. downplayed the 50-page complaint, saying, “That’s not a complaint, that’s a communication because it’s still to be acted upon by the ICC. Procedure is different. Anyone can file a communication.”

Roque said that even Pope Francis has a communication filed against him, so the case brought against Duterte “doesn’t mean anything.”

This is the third complaint for crimes against humanity filed against Duterte, the first two having been filed by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano and lawyer Jude Sabio.

The case brought before ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda had as complainants Irma Locasia, Dennise David, Maria Lozano, Mariel Sabangan, Normita Lopez and Purisima Dacumos, whose relatives were killed in police operations in 2016 and 2017.

The families, aided by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) and Rise Up for Life and for Rights, accused Duterte of being “criminally responsible and liable” for murder “for the extrajudicial killings of thousands of Filipinos” and other inhumane acts “for causing great suffering to the victims and their families,” all punishable under the Rome Statute of the ICC.

They said the President is responsible for the “systematic” and “widespread” killings of drug suspects by his police officers in the administration’s brutal campaign against illegal drugs.

Duterte, according to the complaint, is responsible being the “commander and superior authority” of the police.

“The extrajudicial killings, mass arrests and other inhumane acts committed by and under President Duterte, whether 4,410 killed as claimed by the Philippine government or 23,000 as claimed by human rights and media groups, the mass murder and rights violations are so grievous and so heinous that is of sufficient gravity to justify further action of the Court,” the complaint read.

If the 4,410 slain drug personalities were to be considered, this means that an average of six persons were killed daily as of July 31, 2018, according to the complaint, citing official figures from the police.

“Majority, if not all, of these killings were orchestrated, premeditated and treacherously committed by the police and state forces in their official capacities – in essence, murder, either ordered, incited, goaded, encouraged, tolerated or sanctioned by President Duterte,” the complaint read.

While the police alleged they only killed the drug suspects out of self defense, their experience tell a different story, the families told the ICC prosecutor.

The complaint cited the cases of Djastin Lopez, an epileptic who his family said was just hanging out by the railroad tracks when he was chased and shot at by police in a dark alley in Tondo in May 2017; Bernabe Sabangan and Arnold Vitales, killed by police while they were watching television at Sabangan’s house in Barangay Bagong Silangan, Quezon city on May 15, 2017, but police said it was a shootout following a drug sting operation; Salvador Locasia Jr., who had been included in the drug watchlist and was killed during a wake in Bagong Silangan, Quezon city on Aug. 31, 2016, just a month into the Duterte administration. His family said he was taken by police and then killed nearby but police said he fought back.

Other cases include those of Crisanto and Juan Carlos Lozano, brothers who were included the watchlist and were also killed in what police said was a followup operation to a robbery incident on May 12, 2017; Danilo Dacumos, also in the drug watchlist, who was killed in his own residence in Caloocan on Aug. 3, 2017 also allegedly by police; and John Jezreel David, a hotel attendant who was last seen alive on Jan. 19, 2017 and was found days later at a morgue.

NUPL chairman Neri Colmenares said the sheer number of 4,000 deaths is enough to constitute a crime against humanity.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s tens of thousands or 4,410; there are several dead already. This is up to the standard of crimes against humanity,” he said. (www,philstar.com)

Lawyer Krissy Conti of the same group added that the directive of the President to “neutralize” drug suspects is a clear order for police to kill alleged pushers and users.

“We think the term ‘neutralize’ in the tokhang memorandum is a directive to kill not only in the language of police themselves, but also in practice,” Conti said.

“These killings must be stopped and justice must be served, not only for the individual families of the victims, but for all of us as a people. The poor have been striving hard to get out of poverty but the President’s answer buried them instead, literally and figuratively, to greater woes. And now, this prevailing atmosphere of death and impunity forces us to live in fear of the state forces and masked men roaming around our humble communities, carrying a license to kill assured by no less than the President himself,” Rise Up coordinator Deaconess Rubylin Litao said.

In ending the complaint, the families called for an “end to the madness,” quoting the President’s words when he compared himself to Hitler, “one of the most evil men in history,” in ordering the deaths of drug suspects.

Dennise David, the father of John Jezreel David, said he took the courage to file a case against the Chief Executive so he could seek justice for his son.

“Pinatay ang aming mga mahal sa buhay. Ayaw naming maramdaman ng ibang pamilya ang nararamdaman namin. Dapat mahinto na ang pamamaslang at mapanagot ang dahilan ng patayan (Our loved ones were killed. We don’t want other families to feel what we feel. The killings should be stopped and the perpetrators should be brought to justice),” he said. (www.philstar.com)

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