THE VOTE: We do not need Martial Law in Mindanao

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(Explanation of “no” vote on extending martial law in Mindanao until 31 December 2018, delivered by Dinagat Islands Rep. Kaka Bag-ao at the House of Represetnatives on 13 December 2017)

Ginoong Speaker, mga kasama, isa po ako sa mga boses ng Mindanao sa Kongresong ito. Sa kasalukuyan po ay hindi pa rin naipapakita ang patunay na nababalot ng terorismo ang kabuuan ng Mindanao. Ang pagdedeklara ng Martial Law sa lahat ng probinsya nito ay isang malaking hakbang na paatras mula sa matagal nang inaasam na kapayapaan at kaunlaran ng mga mamamayan. Oo, kinikilala natin na dapat sugpuin ang terorismo, pero kailangan nating pagnilay-nilayan nang mas mabuti: Batas Militar nga ba ang sagot sa problemang ito?

The Battle of Marawi has already been won by government forces. Dahil dito, nais ko na ring samantalahin ang pagkakataong makapagsalita upang bigyan ng pagpupugay ang ating dakilang mga sundalo. I salute our valiant soldiers for their victory. We are truly grateful for your service.

However, the larger war against terrorism will not be ended with Martial Law as the sole solution. Our soldiers deserve a better strategy to carry out their duty to protect our citizens—citizens in Mindanao who have been greatly affected by the conflict.

Sa ngayon mayroong higit sa tatlong daan at limampung libong internally-displaced persons nang dahil sa kaguluhan sa Marawi ayon sa Department of Social Welfare and Development. Higit sa pitumpu’t pitong libong pamilya ang nawalay mula sa kanilang mga tahanan. Marami nang namatay mula sa parehong hanay ng sibilyan at militar. Hindi lang dapat ang paglaban sa mga terorista ang pagtuunan ng pansin ng pamahalaan. Kasama dapat sa isipan natin ang mga mamamayang naapektuhan ng hidwaan.

The war against terror, Mister Speaker, my dear colleagues, isn’t simply about fighting fire with fire. We do not match terror with another terror. Malinaw po ito, mga kasama.

The war against terror is a complex problem that needs a comprehensive response—and hastily re-imposing Martial Law is far from being the comprehensive response that we need from this government.

We do not need Martial Law in Mindanao. We need better military intelligence. We need quicker military response. We need active citizenship in our communities. We need to institute structural reforms. We need a strategic response, and not just be comfortable with the shortcuts offered by Martial Law and the shrinking of democratic and political rights of citizens—of Filipinos—in Mindanao.

Mister Speaker, my dear colleagues, all of these necessities, I strongly believe, are not equivalent to simply continuing Martial Law.

Dahil po rito, Ginoong Speaker, mga kasama—ang boto ko ay NO sa pagpapatuloy ng Batas Militar. Mindanao deserves better. Our soldiers deserve better. Maraming salamat po.

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