Dry run

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Du30 finally got what he has desired for so long, martial law. He declared military rule in the entire Mindanao, the second biggest island in the country and is threatening to expand it to the Visayas and ultimately to the whole country.

Just few weeks in office, Du30 threatened martial law in response to the statement of Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno on the rule of law and separation of powers.  Since then on several occasions he publicly said he will declare martial law. Now the Maute terrorist group in collusion with elements of Abu Sayyaf had provided him the pretext to do it.

Marawi City was besieged by the terrorist groups after a failed raid by military forces on the hideout of a top wanted terrorist Isnilon Hapilon. In response to the raid, members of the terrorist groups attacked various areas in the city including the city hall, city jail, and a college among others. A priest and some parishioners are being held hostage by the group.

Thousands of residents have fled and the military backed by tanks and air planes are staging counter-attacks. Amidst the chaos, Du30 cut short his visit to Russia and returned home. While still in Russia, he issued Proclamation 216 placing the whole of Mindanao under martial law.

Debates are now flaring across the nation on the action of Du30. Those who support the move saw a need for it to suppress and root out terrorism in Mindanao. They share the belief of Du30 that force is the best answer to the problem.

There are those who see the declaration of martial law by Du30 as unnecessary and dangerous. For human Rights lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno the act of Du30 raised more questions than providing answer to the problem in Marawi City and Mindanao. “The way it was worded (in the proclamation), the issue is if there is an actual rebellion in Mindanao that would justify the imposition of martial law. They use the word ‘capability’. That would mean that might happen rather than actually happening. It is clear from the constitutional deliberations that what the Constitution means is an actual invasion and rebellion taking place.”

Is what is happening in Marawi City rebellion?  Member of the Constitutional Commission that draft the current Constitution, Christian Monsod said that what is going on in Marawi city is a state of lawlessness and under the Constitution Du30 is empowered to call out the military and the police to suppress it without resorting to martial law. In short, what Monsod is saying is, it is within the powers of Du30 to deal with the emergency in Marawi City and martial law is not needed.

Martial law is an extreme measure designed to deal with an extreme situation. Is the Marawi City situation extreme? Some said it is and martial law is needed to prevent the situation from spreading to other parts of Mindanao and the whole country.

In the age of fake news and alternative facts, it is easy to be swayed by such argument.  Are the Maute group and Abu Sayyaf capable of escalating the conflict beyond Marawi City?  The Maute Group established in 2013 has about 100 members and with exaggeration could be 200. The Abu Sayyaf which splintered into several factions has around 400 members.

While they have the capability to carry out terror attacks to the rest to the country as they have been doing, it is an exaggeration for Du30 to say that martial law is needed to suppress them. Aside from these terrorist groups, there are also the far numerous Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) with 10,000 fighters and the New People’s Army NPA) with 3,200 fighters. Given the presence of these armed groups in the country, a perpetual martial law is needed if one is to follow Du30’s logic.

Armed groups are around for so long and the military and police had been dealing with them without the need for martial law. On many instances, the security apparatus of the country said that while these armed groups are threats to peace and order, they are under control and their capability to do harm and damage had been considerably minimized.

Most worrisome is the tendency of Du30 to look at martial law as an anti-dote to all the problems facing the country. The mindset that force is the only way of dealing with the numerous problems facing the country is dangerous and destructive.  The existence of armed opposition of various shades and stripes are just manifestations of complex social, economic and cultural problems and using force will not solve these problems but only exacerbate them. Past experience has borne this out.

Many however suspect that the declaration of martial law in Mindanao is just a dry run for Du30. He has hungered and thirsted for martial law for he believes that it is the magic wand that will wave away all the nation’s woes. If his current act succeeds, no doubt he will replicate it nationwide.

For the love of innocent lives and country, this mentality of Du30 must be rejected and his declaration of martial strongly opposed. Using only force to confront issues deeply rooted in social, economic, political, historical and cultural problems is foolish and harmful. Du30 had been using force to stamp out the drug problem in Davao City for a quarter a century and only last week five people were dead and 21 arrested in drugs raids in Davao City. His solution failed in Davao City but now he intends to bring the same failed solution to the whole nation.

Martial law is a failed solution. When the dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. used it to perpetuate himself in power, he ended up robbing the nation ($10 billion) and killing and jailing thousands.  Du30’s martial law could be worst.

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