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On March 23, President Rodrigo Duterte declared Martial Law on the whole southern island of Mindanao, Philippines, after an armed encounter in Marawi City between the Maute group, a radical organization that pledged allegiance to the Daesh in Iraq and Syria, and the Philippine army. The announcement was made by the President while on a state visit in Russia.
News reports have quoted the President saying his martial law will not be any different from what the previous dictator, President Marcos, did and that he will be harsh. Furthermore, President Duterte has declared a possibility of putting the whole Philippines under martial law in order to contain supposed increased attacks by the Daesh.
Authorities say 90% of the city’s 200,000 population have already evacuated. Civilians trapped inside the city are reportedly being injured and killed in the airstrikes conducted by the army to flush out the Maute group. Government data cites that more than 80,000 were displaced by the clash. The effects of Martial Law are also felt in other parts of Mindanao. The Philippine Army has imposed curfews and checkpoints. On May 25, around 250 civilians in Davao were arrested after failing to provide identification to the military.
Aerial bombardments are also reported in North Cotabato and Bukidnon causing the forced evacuation of Moro communities. In Compostela Valley, the army barged into the picket line of striking workers of Shin Sun Tropical Corporation, a Korea-owned banana company, and threatened to kill the workers if they do not end their ongoing strike against the company’s practice of contractualization and union-busting. On May 26, the army announced that the right to censure is part of the guidelines that they are crafting to implement Martial law in Mindanao.
People’s organizations from all over the Philippines promptly launched protest actions against the militarist solution of the government to the situation in Marawi and the imposition of Martial Law. Remembering the grave atrocities committed by the military during the martial law of the 1970s, activists from the Philippines are calling for the lifting of martial law in Mindanao, and for the government to pursue just peace by resolving the roots of armed conflict.
Coming from its biennial conference on ‘Resisting Militarism, Building People’s Power and Democracy’ in Tokyo on May 6-7, the Asia Pacific Research Network (APRN) has resolved to support actions against militarism and violations of people’s rights in the region. APRN stands with the people of Marawi and the Philippines in the call to end martial law.
The network denounces the Maute group and the Daesh for their terrorist practices. Likewise, the network deplores the use of the attack by the Maute group in order to justify fascist rule. The history of the military in the Philippines is tainted with blood and anti-people violence. The same institution is expected to ‘restore peace and order’
by giving them power over civilians, while being known for committing atrocities such as tortures, extra judicial killings and enforced disappearances, rape, and being used by corporations to harass local communities. Likewise, the network denounces the President’s ‘joke’ that soldiers can rape up to three women and he will answer for it, for rape is never a laughing matter, but a horrific crime.
The government’s military solution to the problem in Marawi City will only breed more conflict. It completely ignores the grave economic disparity, exclusion from political processes, and other historical injustices that drive the emergence of armed groups.
APRN supports the call for just peace in the Philippines and urges members and fellow regional and international organizations to voice their solidarity.