Martial law extended

Voting 245 out of the 291 House members and 16 of 20 senators present, martial law in Mindanao was extended up to the end of 2017.

This was the final count after the joint special session held on May 22 in the House of Representatives, in response to the request of President Rodrigo Duterte to extend martial law in Mindanao.

Since martial law was first declared on May 23, the MILF has not taken the hard-line position of those who opposed it especially those belonging to so-called patriots or nationalists. Instead, leaders of the MILF had sought immediate dialogue with President Duterte to seek clarifications vis-à-vis the GPH-MILF peace process particularly the ceasefire, peace mechanisms, and the joint war on kidnappings and anti-drug trafficking.

The meeting took place at the Malacañang of the South in Davao City on May 29 where the president unambiguously stated that the martial law is not intended to any of the legitimate revolutionary groups in Mindanao particularly the MILF. He also clearly said that the peace process would proceed smoothly as it has been proceeding since he became the president.

During the meeting, the parties, agreed, among others, to create the peace corridor to be able to retrieve or rescue civilians trapped in the fighting in Marawi City and to help provide pathway for relief supplies for the evacuees. The scheme was and still is under the general supervision of the peace implementing panels of both parties.

To the MILF, humanitarian intervention is the only logical and moral step that it can offer to the suffering people of the city which government fully appreciated and accepted.

For the MILF, martial law is not outright bad, as others would like to argue. Martial law can be a legitimate tool, in fact it is, of a legitimate government to stop rebellion, invasion, or prevent or suppress lawless violence when public safety so requires. Each country’s constitution in the world provides for this scheme every time it is needed.

Compared to the martial law of President Ferdinand Marcos in September 1972, the one declared by President Duterte is very much mild, as if one does not feel at all that there is such a thing being enforced. During the first, every time a civilian approached a checkpoint, he or she was already trembling. It is not because he is a criminal or a rebel but soldiers, police, and constabulary had the signature of abuse, thievery, and killing. Summary execution was the rule rather than exception. Today, soldiers and policemen operating checkpoints are not hostile and tiger looking.  They are generally polite especially to commuters.

It is on this premise that the MILF fully understands the rationale for such extension.  Making “life comfortable for all” which unambiguously is the vision of President Duterte cannot be attained without resorting to measures that may inconvenience many and, more importantly, curtails or contains the movements of criminals, “terrorists”, and plotters.

Be this as it may, the hard face of this current martial law is very much felt in Marawi City. Whatever reason or reasons, the bombing and bombardment should be terminated soon. The civilians are the ones suffering most, while the Maute group must have slipped out already or is immobilized to the last man.  

It is this concern for the safety of civilians that matters most to us, and we are sure, the government feels the same.