Martial law in Mindanao

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao reportedly to combat militants who have launched coordinated attacks on Marawi City since May 23. The fighting claimed the lives of 15 government forces and as many as 30 wounded in action. Government account said as high as 30 militants were killed. However, there has been no independent confirmation of the figures.

Immediately, Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) issued an official statement.

He strongly condemned the violence in Marawi City perpetrated by group or groups whose only aim is to sow terror, even as he also denounced attacking civilian-populated areas and destruction of infrastructures and institutions serving the people.

As victims of martial law during the dictatorship of President Ferdinand Marcos, it is very hard to endorse another declaration of martial law. Even the best-tailored martial law is still prone to some excesses. Such can emanate from the excesses use of force in the form of collateral damage to civilians.

We are not saying this would happen this time. So far, reports in the field said the military is behaving quite well. Those manning checkpoints are courteous.

However, borrowing the words of Chairman Murad, “the MILF is not in a position to question the factual basis for the proclamation of this martial law or the decision to make it”. They are only known to the president himself.

But as the facts of the fighting in Marawi City unfold – the streets are literally littered with decomposing corpses – one may be tempted to think that ordinary force is not enough to quell the violence and stop the madness. Special, nay emergency or extraordinary, situation calls for special or extraordinary approach.

But would these madness and violence justify the declaration of martial law?

We are not ready to provide the answer and, more seriously, we don’t think we have to delve deeply into this issue. Chair Murad had not commented on it directly, and therefore we cannot go beyond that parameter.

President Duterte is a lawyer and, as such, he knows the full extent of his decision. Besides, he is a leader and he has been tested as such. In fact, he has been through all sorts of trying moments.

But one thing to remember is that the Duterte’s declaration fulfilled an oft-repeated promise to impose martial law to fight the so-called ISIS-linked militants, whom he has said are growing threat to national security. In fact, martial law has been his byword early on in his administration.

But we don’t think it is proper to question the intention of leaders; after all, the president is the father of this country right now.