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Martial law ‘toothless’ in Sulu

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By Antonio L. Colina IV

Davao City — Civil society organization Save Sulu Movement said martial law in Mindanao has been ineffective in Sulu, even after more than four months since its declaration by President Rodrigo R. Duterte following armed clashes between government forces and Islamic State-inspired Maute Group in Marawi City last May 23.

Speaking in “Wednesdays Habi at Kape” forum here, Prof. Octavio A. Dinampo, the group’s spokesperson, called martial law “toothless” in addressing the terrorism and narco-politics in the Sulu province.

As such, the group called for the lifting of martial law in Mindanao, except in six of 19 municipalities in Sulu province, being the “cradle of violence” of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) that he claimed has links to some local politicians.

Sulu is part of the five-province Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Dinampo recommended that a “martial law that has a teeth,” or a complete military takeover, should be enforced in Patikul, Maimbung, Indanan, Parang, Talipao and Kalinggalan Caluan in Sulu.

He said Duterte might as well “suspend or lift it altogether” if he cannot pull off a complete military takeover, claiming that there are some local police who continuously escort local politicians in Sulu despite order from the National Police Commission (Napolcom) cancelling the politicians power over local police.”

“Despite the declaration of martial law, despite having Napolcom, cancelling deputation of PNP by local politicians, (there are still) criminal activities or partnership in the province of Sulu, but nothing much has been done.  There was arrest here and there, killing of one or two ASG here, but in its entirety I think we did not achieve the purpose it serves,” he said.

As such, Dinampo called for the full enforcement of a Napolcom resolution that withdrew the deputation of seven provincial governors and 132 mayors in Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Sultan Kudarat, and Cotabato City as Napolcom representatives.

He said they also wanted a monitoring mechanism where ordinary citizens will be able to report violations, and suspend the pre-identified local chief executives who are allegedly involved in illegal drugs trade as cited by the Napolcom Resolution and prosecute, and put those criminally liable behind bars.

Dinampo also called for the removal or transfer of provincial prosecutor of Sulu and investigate why there has been dismal track record of zero conviction of drug cases in the past 10 years in Sulu.

He said the group wants the government to conduct an inventory on drug cases and account to the last gram the apprehended illegal substance and drug paraphernalia and investigate highly suspicious dismissals of drug cases and the release of high profile drug suspects from jail without trial.

Dinampo also proposed  that the government conducts a lifestyle check on the personnel of the provincial prosecutor’s office, provincial jail, some court personnel in relation to possible protection extended to drug suspects.

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