World Bulletin / News Desk
Various militant groups flocked to areas of the Philippine capital as they unanimously called for the government’s immediate lifting of martial law, which they deem as not the only way to address the rebellion in Mindanao, and denounced President Rodrigo Duterte’s authoritarian tendencies.
Protesters decried human rights abuses, dozens of killings, torture cases, illegal arrests and detentions and thousands of cases of threats, harassment and intimidation.
Duterte on May 23 last year placed the southern Philippines under martial law following the attack by ISIL terrorists, who hoisted black flags in a bid to establish an Islamic caliphate in Southeast Asia.
The city, which has witnessed skirmishes between government troops and terrorists for more than five months, was liberated last October but remains under martial law.
Acting upon Duterte’s request, congress last December approved the extension of military rule until the end of 2018 as the government seeks to address a “greater threat” – the existence of a network of terrorist groups.
In a statement Wednesday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque clarified that there is no reason to lift martial law.
“Certainly one year after the siege, the time to lift martial law is not yet here,” he said.
Roque assured that martial law will be lifted as soon as developments warrant but did not give a timeline or condition that would prompt it.
As the country marks the anniversary of the deadly battle that displaced more than 300,000 residents and claimed over 1,100 lives, mostly militants, Duterte snubbed events lined up in the city.
“We will go on the liberation of Marawi, not the start of the siege. Why honor the anniversary of the siege?” Special Assistant to the President Christopher Go told reporters.
Mujiv Hataman, governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, called on the victims of the siege to unite against threats to peace and security.
“We cannot afford to let this happen again, and this requires collective effort towards securing our homes, our cities and our region,” said Hataman.
“Marawi will rise again, and it will rise with the renewed strength and courage of our people.”
The government estimates that PHP17 billion ($323.53 million) is needed to rehabilitate Marawi.