LUGAR LANG| Keep Saying No to Martial Law

ON 28 June 2017, a third women’s peace forum was held in Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU) entitled “Journey to Peace: In Solidarity with Marawi,” organized once again by the Women’s Alliance for True Change in cooperation with the Ateneo Public Interest and Legal Advocacy Center (APILA), and the city’s Integrated Gender Development Division. In his welcome remarks, Atty. Romeo Cabarde, director of APILA explained that the country is going through several peace processes, which are challenging because the parties have differing ideological frameworks. He was referring to the peace talks of the Philippine government (GPH) with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP-NDF-NPA) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). I could add the process going on in Marawi, but it is hardly one of peace or talks. Cabarde stressed that Martial Law in Mindanao in fact weakens the peace processes and invites extremism. But he remained hopeful that the involvement of women makes the possibility of peace real.

 Atty. Angela Librado-Trinidad of the GPH peace panel once again presented the modest gains of the previous peace talks before admitting that the fifth round of talks were suspended due to the shadow cast by Martial Law. She shared that the president had suspended the round because of a “lack of an enabling environment conducive to the peace negotiations,” particularly the call of the NDFP to intensify ground operations after ML was declared in Mindanao. She reiterated that the peace talks have not been cancelled. In fact, bilateral committees negotiating contentious issues like the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reform (CASER) are ongoing.

 Bai Ali Indayla, secretary general of Kawagib, a Moro human rights organization, delivered a Marawi situationer based on the fact-finding report of the National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission. The most important finding is that the counter-terrorist attacks of the government are being carried out not only in Marawi, but also in Maguindanao, Matan-ao in Davao del Sur, and Pres. Roxas in North Cotabato.The mission recommended that the government’s airstrikes stop because they have caused massive human rights violations and more than 325,000 internally displaced persons. This forcible evacuation has led to a humanitarian crisis because aid is only distributed to specific public evacuation centers, without regard for those who are staying with family and friends.

 The report also presented testimonies from the victims themselves who are pleading for an end to ML and aerial bombardment, indemnification for the immense damage to public and private property, and the rehabilitation of the city. Witnesses also bemoaned military bravado and impunity especially towards political dissidents, confirming that Martial Law is ineffective as a counter-terrorist strategy, calling it overkill. Finally, Indayla emphasized the importance of investigating covert US military interference in the Mindanao operations.

 Mags Z. Maglana, convenor of Konsyensya Dabaw presented an analysis of Martial Law from the perspective of the Mindanawon. She explained that those currently in power who are justifying ML in Mindanao should rightly be called “Mindanaoan” for being from Mindanao. But they cannot be called Mindanawon, which is used politically to mean those who want Mindanao to win the right to self-determination. She urged the public to resist the Gordian knot being presented by the government in its desire to justify Martial Law: terrorism plus rebellion plus invasion plus illegal drugs. Are these problems necessarily conflated? Can they be separated into more manageable sets?

 Maglana also noted that aside from ML, the president could have invoked the 2007 Human Security Act and the 2012 Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act to address the situation in Marawi. Given the country’s history with martial law, it would have been wiser to avoid it. To drive home her point, she asked, “If the president weren’t Duterte, would Mindanawons have allowed ML in Mindanao?”

 No. A complicated situation such as ours in Mindanao requires a complex solution. A simplistic one like martial law reminds me of Joseph Conrad’s novel, Heart of Darkness, in which the commander Kurtz mercilessly orders, “Exterminate all the brutes!” Such is the effect of indiscriminate airstrikes, which takes down everyone in its path. It seems that for this government, the only way to win the war is to kill everyone and decimate the whole city.

 When the Marawi siege happened, we used the hashtags, “We Are Marawi” and “One with Marawi” in our social media posts. But what does it really mean to be in solidarity with Marawi? Each one of us is called to examine what we can do individually to help end this war. The first step is to keep saying no to Martial Law in Mindanao. Even though the Supreme Court has voted to declare it legal, it doesn’t mean it is right. And that brute who wants to extend it until 2022? Definitely not a Mindanawon.

 Follow or message me on Twitter @jhoannalynncruz

Posted in Opinion