June 12, 2017
Thousands of peace and human rights advocates marched throughout the country on Independence Day to condemn terrorism in Marawi, US intervention in the conflict and to demand the lifting of Martial Law in Mindanao. The fighting in Marawi has reached its “third week with 58 government troops and 38 civilians killed. More than 200,000 civilians have also been displaced by the fighting between government forces and the Maute Group.
Earlier in the day, Bayan led marchers in a brief protest in front of the Chinese Embassy to condemn China’s alleged threat of war if the Philippines would assert its sovereign rights over the West PH Sea. Bayan believes that the ruling of the International Arbitral Tribunal boosted the claims of the Philippines. The group called for the demilitarization of the South China Sea, both from China and US warships.
The marchers then proceeded to the US embassy in Manila to condemn what they described as foreign intervention in the Marawi conflict. “We reject any form of US military intervention in the Marawi conflict. The US creates, exploits and fans conflicts worldwide to advance their imperialist agenda, which includes reestablishing bases in the Philippines. It is strange for President Rodrigo Duterte to say that he was unaware of US involvement in Marawi. If this is true, he must order the pull-out of the US Special Forces currently engaged in military operations in the area,” Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr. said.
“It is not true that there are no boots on the ground for US troops. US forces are there in the thick of the conflict as they are engaged in intel work and direct support for PH troops. This is in contravention of Duterte’s avowed independent foreign policy. Duterte cannot just say “let them be” as if it was just a harmless incident with no real, short and long term repercussions,” Reyes added.
In the afternoon, Bayan joined the interfaith action at the Bonifacio Shrine in Manila in solidarity with Marawi and to call for the lifting of Martial Law in Mindanao. The action comes a day before the Supreme Court holds oral arguments on Duterte’s Martial Law declaration for Mindanao. Present at the action were Muslims, Christians, Lumad, human rights groups, lawyers, workers, farmers and youth. The National Day of Prayer and Action condemned in the strongest terms the Maute terror in Marawi but also called for respect for human rights and the immediate lifting of Martial Law for the entire Mindanao region. The groups echoed the call of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Lanao del Sur chapter which sought an end to human rights violations under Martial Law.
The groups ended the day-long protest with a march to Mendiola, calling on President Duterte to lift Martial Law, kick out US troops from the Philippines and continue the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
“We are just days away from Duterte’s first year in office. There remains many unfulfilled promises as well as major reversals in his pronouncements. He has bowed to the demands of the pro-US military when it comes to the peace talks and the presence of US troops in the country. He has a terrible human rights record in the drug war and the all-out war for counter-insurgency. His economic program is a rehash of the program of the past governments. In all these, the people ask, “where is the change? If there is no change, there can be no just peace,” Reyes said. ###