Malacañang has dared human rights activists to prove allegations of human rights violations committed by members of the military in Mindanao under martial law.

During a press briefing on Thursday, May 24 in Marawi City, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque called on the presentation of proof or “let us not accuse our soldiers.”

“Many soldiers offered their lives. Many of them were wounded, hurt or lost limbs. Let us not accuse them of committing violence if we do not have proof,” Roque said.

He added, “We recognize the heroism of soldiers and we give them the presumption of good faith. To the accusers, the burden of evidence and burden of proof lie on you. Where is your evidence? Otherwise, just shut up because you are not the ones dying for the country.

According to the human rights group Karapatan, 49 incidents of extrajudicial killings, 116 frustrated extrajudicial killings, 22 torture cases, 89 illegal arrests and detention, 9,738 cases of threats/harassments/intimidations, 336,124 cases of indiscriminate firing and bombings, 404,654 cases of forced evacuation, and 979 forced surrenders had been recorded from May 23, 2017 to May 23, 2018.

Karapatan also claimed to have documented 404,654 persons displaced by bombings.

The human rights group has asked the Commission on Human Rights to look into the abuses and called for the immediate lifting of martial law, which was declared after Islamic State-inspired terrorists laid siege to Marawi City on May 23, 2017. It claimed that the martial law has been used by Philippine security forces as “license to further perpetuate rights violations.”

A call for an immediate investigation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the prosecution of perpetrators is also being urged by Karapatan.

Meanwhile, AFP chief Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. claimed that “the people of Mindanao want martial law to stay across the region” given the choice.

“We talked to the people and they love martial law. They have been telling us they want Mindanao to be under martial law forever,” he said.

According to Galvez, the people are asking the military and political leaders for the retention of military rule due to its contributions to the improvement of the peace and order in the entire Mindanao. They reportedly also do not seem to mind the setup because its enforcement is being directed not against any peace-loving individuals but against lawless groups.

“Very effective because we can search houses once we have monitored or have suspicions that there are hidden firearms or illegal materials hidden inside these particular places,” Galvez said.

Government enforcers of martial law managed to to seize or recover 6,000 firearms of various calibers, particularly in Sulu during the first quarter of the year, as stated by Galvez. However, these just represent a small percentage of loose firearms still in the hands of various lawless groups in Mindanao.

“There are around 80 percent of loose firearms that we have to recover in Mindanao,” Galvez said.

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