AGAINST MARTIAL LAW. Various activist groups rally in Plaza Miranda in front of Quiapo Church as they denounce the firefight between government forces and the Maute group during a candle lighting activity on May 24, 2017. Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Advocates lit candles on Wednesday, May 24, in protest of the declaration of martial law rule in Mindanao, following the clash in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.

In response to the declaration, Kabataan Partylist and Suara Bangsamoro organized the activity at the Mendiola Arch in Manila.

“We reiterate the need to stop these ISIS affiliates from causing more harm. However, we oppose Duterte’s declaration of martial law because it is open to all sorts of abuses by government troops notorious for human rights violations," Kabataan Partylist Representative Sarah Elago said.

“It is our utmost concern to avoid civilian casualties and grave human rights violations. That’s why we support calls for a peaceful and diplomatic resolution of the crisis, not a militarist approach,” Elago added.

On Tuesday, May 23, clashes erupted between the military and the Maute Group. Before the day ended, President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao. (TIMELINE: Marawi clashes prompt martial law in all of Mindanao)

Martial law will last no more than 60 days, unless it is extended.

Duterte said early Wednesday his martial law rule will be no different from former president Ferdinand E. Marcos. He also said he may expand coverage to Luzon and Visayas if the threat persists.

‘Learn from Zamboanga siege’

Moro groups also condemned the declaration of martial law as "it will only worsen the instability in Marawi City."

Jerome Succor Aba, the national chairperson of Suara Bangsamoro, said it will only justify urban militarization and intensified operations in the area.

“Our utmost concern is the lives and livelihood of the civilians, if the Duterte administration should choose to pursue urban militarization and aerial bombings. War in this context is unnecessary and solves nothing,” Aba said.

He said the current administration should learn from what happened during the Zamboanga siege in 2013. (READ: Zamboanga siege: Tales from the combat zone)

Meanwhile, lawmakers expressed support for the decision to declare military rule in the crisis-hit area. Mindanao lawmakers led by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said it is justifiable given the security problems faced by the region.

Marawi City Mayor Majul Usman Gandamra said the declaration is "timely" but the government must ensure respect for human rights while it is in effect.

Supreme Court Justice Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno already ordered all courts in Mindanao to remain open. –

All photos by Ben Nabong/Rappler

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