Duterte’s martial law: Mission accomplished, says military
DAVAO CITY — If there’s one thing the military can claim about the gains of implementing martial law in Mindanao, it’s preventing the violence in Marawi City from spilling to other areas.
With the intensified security operations, the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) “was able to carry out its mission,” Brig. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, assistant regional military commander, said in a statement.
“Business remains vibrant in the region through the security arrangements and the active interagency operations of the military and the police,” said Gapay, who is also the spokesperson for the implementation of martial law in Mindanao.
President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire Mindanao under military rule following the attack of Islamic State-inspired terrorists on Marawi City on May 23.
The fighting for control of the city has left more than 800 people dead and displaced more than 400,000 people.
Gapay said the security situation in areas under Eastmincom, particularly Davao, Caraga and parts of Northern Mindanao and Cotabato regions had remained relatively stable.
“The Kadayawan Festival of Davao City, Higala-ay Festival in Cagayan de Oro City and other events held in the region were concluded peacefully,” Gapay said.
He said troops under Eastmincom had conducted 50,979 checkpoint operations and carried out 36,169 security patrols “to protect areas of convergence, worship areas and other public events.”
Eastmincom has the operational jurisdiction over troops under the Compostela Valley-based 10th Infantry Division and the 4th ID based in Cagayan de Oro City.
Gapay said the troops had succeeded in shielding the region from terrorists while protecting human rights and observing the rule of law.
Terror suspects captured
Eastmincom has set up a multisectoral advisory council, drawing representatives from different sectors, to check on rights abuses by security forces, he said.
Several terror suspects, including Cayamora Maute, the patriarch of the ringleaders behind the Marawi terror attack, have been captured by security forces in the region.
Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of Joint Task Group Sulu, said declaration of martial law allowed the military to enhance its campaign against the Abu Sayyaf and other lawless groups in the island province.
He said checkpoints were set up in strategic areas, while a curfew was imposed on the entire province.
“We strictly enforce the ID system here. Everyone is required to bring their ID. With these measures, we have arrested a number of Abu Sayyaf and recovered firearms. [The] crime rate also went down, that is according to [the] assessment of the police,” Sobejana said.
Ruth Guerrero, who teaches at Ateneo de Zamboanga University, agrees with the implementation of martial law in Mindanao.
Good for business
“For me, as far as Mindanao is concerned, it has imposed the message that we are mindful of our security, and that both the military and police are also on their toes to ascertain that the strategies of these radical extremists are quelled or intercepted,” Guerrero said.
Local officials have also expressed support for the implementation of martial law and its extension up to the end of the year, saying the stable peace and order is good for business.
Maguindanao Rep. Zajid Mangudadatu said his province had “become peaceful [with the implementation of] martial law because many lawless elements were arrested, including those who have connections with [the] Maute and [the] Abu Sayyaf [groups].”
Davao del Norte Gov. Antonio Rafael del Rosario said the extension of martial law “would allow the government to solve the problem of insurgency and terrorism for good.”
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said martial rule had not dampened business in the region, citing what he described as the successful holding of the Davao Investment Conference in July, with hundreds of local and foreign traders attending.
While the military maintains it has ensured respect for human rights in conducting its duties, rights groups have accused security forces of committing rampant abuses against civilians.
In Southern Mindanao alone, at least 46 cases of alleged summary killings perpetrated by military agents have been documented since the imposition of martial law, according to Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general.
These political killings, Karapatan said, have victimized peasants, activists and even lumad youth, as in the case of 18-year-old Ata-Manobo Obillo Bay-ao, who was shot dead by suspected progovernment militiamen in Talaingod town, Davao del Norte over a week ago.
For Mags Maglana, coconvener of antimartial law group Konsensya Dabaw, extending martial law would not solve the problem of violent extremism “but institutionalize a militarist order that would jeopardize civilian rule, affect the exercise of rights and socioeconomic activities, and encourage collusion with the political and economic elite” instead.
Maglana, who also writes a column for a local daily, drew parallels between the military rule imposed by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, some 45 years ago, with Mr. Duterte’s Proclamation No. 216, with the two draconian measures using the “state of lawlessness” in the southern Philippine region as cause for the imposition.
“Marcos’ martial law created the conditions that intensified human rights abuses, exploitation and underdevelopment in Mindanao. Instead of putting a stop to the conditions described in Proclamation 1081, martial law under Marcos became a self-fulfilling prophecy,” she said.
Mr. Duterte’s military rule cited “violent acts” by the jihadis in Marawi City and nearby areas in Lanao del Sur as justification for the proclamation, Maglana said.
“Nearly four months later, (Duterte’s martial law) has not vanquished the violent extremist fighters in Marawi. Instead, airstrikes and sustained artillery attacks have done so much damage to the city that years from now its destruction might get cited as an example of yet another historical injustice and trigger more resistance,” Maglana said.
“[M]ilitary rule has managed to tap into the sense of fear of many urban Mindanaoans, convincing them that it takes no less than military supremacy to ensure stability and order,” she said.
Even as the specter of a nationwide martial law looms, Maglana has joined a growing number of voices calling for the lifting of military rule in Mindanao.
“It is not yet too late for President Duterte to lift martial law so that it does not meld with other factors that would make Proclamation 216 a self-fulfilling prophecy of terror, death and damage the way Proclamation 1081 ended up becoming. Violent extremism poses a complex set of challenges that cannot be met by a failed 45-year old formula,” he said.