TINIG MIGRANTE column Martial Law in Mindanao: Why We Oppose It

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  • The declaration of martial law  (oftentimes referred to as “ML”) in Mindanao hit freedom-loving Filipinos, including those overseas, with anger and triggered memories and experiences of growing up, living, and working under martial law imposed by dictator Ferdinand Marcos (1972-1986). It was and remains one of the darkest periods in Philippine history and if we are not vigilant and if we do not continue to oppose Duterte’s imposition of martial law in Mindanao, our fragile freedoms and liberties may all be sacrificed in the altar of militarization and counter-insurgency.

    International condemnation is loud and strong from overseas Filipinos and friends of the Filipino people. The violence in Mindanao was done by bandit groups supported by the CIA, like the Maute and Abu Sayyaf.  Again, the military uses the old refrain of unrest and the presence of the guerrilla New People’s Army as the reasons for martial law. From the time of Marcos and post-Marcos regimes, right-wing militarists have been consistent with using these reasons for the intense militarization and relentless counter-insurgency operations against the people.

    Duterte’s rhetoric, and he has made nationalist-sounding declarations, are not always matched by his actions.  He still is protective of the interests of the military, the big landlords and the big corporations, local and foreign. The military remains a force to contend with and its “all out war” against the NPA-CPP has not wavered. Military leaders expose their non-desire for the peace talks to progress successfully and they have acted to undermine the current peace negotiations.

    Bayan Canada, the Canada-wide alliance of Filipino progressive groups and organizations, issued its strong statement condemning martial law in Mindanao and of standing in solidarity with the people of Marawi. Tinig Migrante quotes  Bayan Canada on the reasons why it opposes ML in Mindanao and they are as follows:

    “ 1. (It is) Historically disastrous. Philippine history has shown us the disastrous effects of martial law under then dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who President Duterte reportedly said he would model his version of martial law in Mindanao after.  Many victims and families of the victims of Marcos’s martial law are now coming out in strong opposition to the imposition of martial law in Mindanao to say NEVER AGAIN!

    Known human rights violators will administer martial law. The same militarists who have perpetrated gross human rights violations in Mindanao and elsewhere in the Philippines are now administering martial law in Mindanao.  Already in the following days since the declaration of martial law in Mindanao, people’s rights are curtailed, their freedom of movement hampered, media and social media censored and people deemed to violate “public” security through their activities in the media and social media are threatened with arrest.  This is not to mention that people are prohibited from joining public demonstrations and are threatened with mass arrest under martial law, effectively muzzling social and human rights activists and removing their freedom of expression to oppose such rule.

    Martial law will intensify military operations. Under martial law, civilians are subjected to an intensification of military operations such as aerial bombardments, illegal arrests and detentions, military occupation of communities, extrajudicial killings, torture and all sorts of human rights violations.  The military already has the resources to stop the Maute and other bandit groups in Marawi without putting the whole Mindanao under martial law.

    Martial law more likely a power play of US imperialism. Martial law in Mindanao only serves the interests of US imperialism in the region, maneuvering to wrest control from the civilian government and give more power to their puppet militarists in Duterte’s own government.  With huge US economic interests in Mindanao, including investments in natural resource extraction through oil explorations, mining, etc. Furthermore, given the Philippines’ geopolitical importance in US imperialism’s pivot to Asia, the US has more to gain in keeping Duterte in check through giving more power to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

    Martial law in Mindanao just a first step towards implementation in the whole of Philippines. Already the Duterte government has alluded to extending martial law from the initial 60-day period to a year, extending the declaration to include parts of the Visayas and possibly Luzon.”

    More than ever, civilian authority must prevail. Now, more than ever, the on-going peace negotiations between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the Philippine Government must be supported if we are ever to have any hope of ending the nearly 50 years of civil war in the Philippines. Many of us have seen first hand the horrors and terrors of martial law under the Marcos dictatorship and we don’t need a replay of that period. “Never again to martial law.”

    By E. Maestro

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