Mindanao groups turn to Sereno to help lift martial law

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 19) — Groups from Mindanao are calling on former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to be their voice to help in the lifting of the martial law declaration in the region.

President Rodrigo Duterte placed Mindanao under martial law almost one year ago, in May 23, 2017, after the Maute group attacked Marawi City.

While Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana officially announced the termination of all combat operations in Marawi in October 23, 2017, the President's declaration has yet to be lifted.

READ: Timeline: The Marawi crisis

Now various groups from Mindanao claim that they've been displaced, tortured and traumatized by the ongoing military rule, and are urging Duterte to end martial law.

Sereno listened to their stories during a forum in at the University of the Philippines, Diliman Saturday, and sympathised with their plight.

"Nalulungkot po ako talaga [I am saddened to hear this]," Sereno said during an ambush interview, when asked about her talks with the disenfranchised.

Sereno vowed to respond to their stories in the coming days. The previous Chief Justice had voted against the one year extension of martial law in Mindanao.

READ: Dissenting SC justices: No need for martial law in Mindanao

Among those who shared their stories are Sultan Abdul Hamidullah Atar of Marawi, students from Lumad communities whose schools have been destroyed during the war, and workers who have been detained for trumped-up charges.

Renato Reyes, Secretary-General of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), said that they had invited Sereno join them following her statement that she wants to listen to the voices of ordinary Filipinos.

"Naisip namin bakit hindi kaya niya pakinggan yung mismong kwento galing sa mga taga-Mindanao: galing sa mga lumad, mga manggagawa, galing sa Marawi," Reyes said.

[Translation: We thought why shouldn't she listen to the stories coming from the people from Mindanao: from the lumads, the workers, the people from Marawi.]

Reyes believes that the former Chief Justice would be an effective voice of dissent.

"We are grateful, natutuwa kami na merong nakikinig doon sa mga problema namin at problema ng mamamayan. At kung sya ay magiging boses para dun sa mga walang boses, mabuti yun," Reyes said.

[Translation: We are grateful, happy that someone will listen to our problems and the problems of the people. It would be good if she becomes the voice for the voiceless.]