Filipino progressives urge people to resist martial law
The progressive social movement continues to oppose President Duterte's declaration of martial law in Mindanao as it vowed to stage massive protests amidst the threat of extending the military rule to the entire country
The commemoration of the Philippine Independence last June 12 was marked by nationwide protests against President Duterte's declaration of martial law in the southern region of Mindanao even as the government persistently raises the specter of terrorism to justify extending military rule in the entire country and the military intervention of the United States.
In Manila, the progressive social movement which includes TWHA, Solidagro and Kiyo consortium partners: Karapatan, Gabriela, Council for Health and Development, Climate Change Network for Community-based Initiatives, Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes, Salinlahi and Children Rehabilitation Center, led people from various faiths, sectors and political affiliations in a day of prayer and action to “renew the call for peace and respect of human rights amidst the rising tide of terrorism, martial rule and impunity that threatens to rip the nation apart”.
Prior to the said activity, activists held protest rallies in front of the Chinese and US Embassies, respectively, to denounce the former’s muscle-flexing against the Philippines to enforce its maritime claims in the disputed islands in the South China Sea and the latter’s continued military intervention as revealed by the reported participation of American soldiers in the ongoing conflict in Marawi City.
Marawi City is the site of the ongoing clashes between government forces and the ISIS- (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) inspired local terrorist groups known as Maute and Abu Sayyaf. President Duterte subsequently put not only Marawi but the entire Mindanao island under martial law and justified it by citing the terrorists’ burning of schools, taking over of a hospital and beheading of a police officer, incidents that actually never happened, as the public would later find out.
Duterte even threatened that he will extend the martial law to the whole country if the problem of terrorism spills over from Marawi and that his martial law will be similar to the one declared by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1972 where thousands of people were killed, imprisoned, tortured and disappeared. Speaking before the soldiers fighting the terrorist group, Duterte joked that the soldiers can rape up to three women and he will claim full responsibility for them.
After initially contradicting President Duterte’s claim that the ISIS has already reached the Philippines and asserted that the situation is under control, the military is now singing a different tune providing a pretext for the extension of martial law which, under the Philippine Constitution, is limited to sixty days. In the thick of the battle in Marawi, the military has released a video showing that the Maute group plotted the takeover of Marawi City to be declared as part of the ISIS caliphate in Southeast Asia.
War on drugs and war on terror: perfect combination
The Philippine National Police, that is currently enforcing the dreaded “war on drugs” that has claimed more than 8,000 lives, has claimed that the terrorist group has links with drug lords insinuating that the latter are funding the Maute group. This was to support President Duterte’s claim that drug money was being used to provide financial and logistical support to Maute group.
Critics have warned that the Duterte government is desperately spreading fake news and misinformation to justify the declaration of martial law in Mindanao and possibly extend it to the entire country.
Fake news and misinformation
Just recently, the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines launched the fake news blocker called Fakeblok (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/fakeblok/hmnmdckbmimdgphejmaepnpinkhkggdm?hl=en) to stop misinformation in the social media stressing that “even state-run news agencies have come up with, shared, and legitimized fake news”.
Petition vs martial law
Progressive groups, including Karapatan and Gabriela, and human rights advocates have also filed a petition in the Supreme Court to nullify the declaration of martial law in Mindanao asserting that the President failed to provide enough factual basis that could prove his claim that “such rebellion has reached an extent that public safety requires the imposition of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.”
They have also stressed that the martial law in Mindanao endangers the peace process being undertaken by the government with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The progressive groups are supporting the peace talks to address the fundamental problems of exploitation and widespread poverty in the country that caused the ongoing armed conflict not only in Mindanao but in the entire country.
Meanwhile, traditional Muslim leaders have called on the President to declare a ceasefire in Marawi, stop the aerial bombings, and listen to the voices of the victims.
“We urge the Duterte administration to resolve the crisis in a civilized manner through dialogue and peaceful approach,” said the leaders in a petition. They have lamented that they have not even heard the President ask about the condition of those who have been displaced by the clashes.
Three weeks after the declaration of martial law, Marawi City is now a scene of devastation as the military continues to drop bombs on residential and commercial areas to flush out the Maute fighters from the city to a little avail as the latter continue to inflict casualties on government troops and civilians trapped in the city.
Just recently, armed members of the US Special Operations Forces have been spotted in Marawi City providing assistance to the local troops. The issue of US troops in the Philippines has become extremely sensitive since the President has repeatedly called for US troops to leave the country.
The presence of the US troops in the country is warranted by a bilateral agreement between the two countries called Visiting Forces Agreement. In media interviews, Duterte admitted that he was not aware of the American presence in Marawi even as the US embassy disclosed that the Philippine government sought US help in destroying the terrorist group.
It is the poor that are getting killed
As in his current “war on drugs”, Duterte’s war against the terrorists has terrorized the poor the most. In protesting against the imposition of martial law, progressive groups have pointed out that martial law will only aggravate the already wretched condition of the poor majority in Mindanao, especially the Moro(Muslim) people and the Lumad (indigenous people in Mindanao):
“It is the poor that bear the brunt of these wars. It is the poor that are killed. It is their rights that are violated. It is their communities that are subject to aerial bombings and abuses during military and police operations.”
Human rights violations such as extrajudicial killings, illegal arrests, and detention, displacement of communities, military and paramilitary encampment in schools have been taking place even before martial law due to the Duterte government's counterinsurgency program that has played havoc with peasant and indigenous people's communities.