Catholic bishops in the southern Philippines supported the declaration of martial law in Mindanao following an attempt by a band of gunmen claiming to be Islamic militants to seize a city in the region.
‘At present we simply do not have solid and sufficient facts to absolutely reject the declaration of martial law as morally reprehensible,’ the bishops’ said in a statement released on 29th May.
President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial across the southern part of the country after gunmen claiming to have links with Daesh stormed Marawi on 23rd May.
State security forces continued to battle with fighters of the Maute group on 29th May, resulting in the displacement of thousands of people.
‘We are certainly agreed that martial law must be temporary,’ the bishops of Mindanao said in the statement signed by Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato, ucanews.com reported.
The cardinal said the Church leaders ‘condemn the terrorist acts that have caused the loss of many innocent lives’ and the burning of houses, a Catholic cathedral and a Protestant school.
‘We condemn the unconscionable kidnapping of teachers and Church personnel,’ the bishops said.
The gunmen took several hostages including Fr Teresito Suganob, vicar of the Prelature of Marawi, some of the prelature’s staff and churchgoers.
The bishops condemned ‘terrorism in its various forms,’ adding that it is an ‘ideology totally against the tenets of any religion of peace’.
‘Terrorism distorts and falsifies the true meaning of any religion. It destroys harmonious relationships among peoples of different faiths,’ the bishops’ added.
They noted that many Filipinos see Duterte’s declaration of martial law as ‘reminiscent of the horrors of a past dictatorship’.
Former dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in the 1970s, resulting in human rights abuses carried out by the military.
‘Martial law is a means of last resort,’ the bishops said. ‘The answers to many questions are speculative. We have many fears.’
They offered their assurance that they will ‘condemn any abuse and as in the past will condemn it outright if it goes in the way of evil’.
The prelates urged Filipinos to be ‘vigilant’.
‘We exhort everyone to be calm in the face of martial law, to be obedient to the just commands of lawful authority, and not to provoke violent reaction,’ said the bishops.
Picture: Soldiers patrol Marawi, Philippines, on 26th May, as President Rodrigo Duterte imposes martial law to combat gunmen claiming to have links with Daesh. (CNS photo/Romeo Ranoco, Reuters).