Mindanao was used by the dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos as part of the justifications for declaring Martial Law. Mindanao figured prominently in Proclamation 1081, which mentioned Mindanao at least 13 times, associated with the terms “lawlessness,” “fear and panic,” “chaos and disorder,” “armed clashes, killings, massacres, arsons, rapes, pillages, destruction of whole villages and towns and the inevitable cessation of agricultural and industrial operations, and ” state of actual war.”
Proclamation 1081 named conflict actors in Mindanao, such as the New Peoples Army, “conflict between certain elements of the Christian and Muslim population,” “between the Christian ‘Ilagas’ and the Muslim ‘Barracudas’,” and “between our government troops, and certain lawless organizations such as the Mindanao Independence Movement,” but only reinforced simplistic and reductionist views of these.
The declaration of Martial Law did not make things better for Mindanao. It made things worse. Marcosian policies facilitated the entry of big business both domestic and foreign that took advantage of the forest, mineral, agricultural, and marine resources of Mindanao. In a number of cases, business colluded with the military and police to drive out communities.
To stay in power, Marcos allied with the elite of Mindanao who rapidly armed themselves to the teeth, and amassed more wealth and power, even if it meant terrorizing and exploiting their own populations.
Ironically, “lawlessness,” “fear and panic,” “chaos and disorder,” “armed clashes, killings, massacres, arsons, rapes, pillages, destruction of whole villages and towns and the inevitable cessation of agricultural and industrial operations, and ” state of actual war” became more commonplace in Mindanao during Martial Law. These only created the conditions for heightened unrest in Mindanao as more groups rose to protest injustices and resist Marcos.
Mindanao became more neglected and its development even more stunted as Marcos and his cronies sought to funnel government resources to areas that they controlled. We were the cash cow that got peanuts. The violent and frontier image that Marcos had cultivated to warrant the continuation of authoritarian rule made Mindanao unattractive to more sustainable economic activities.
Much of the contemporary discrimination against Mindanao and Mindanawons—that we had neither electricity nor airports, that Muslims were by nature scheming, and that indigenous peoples and the rest of the population were unshod and ignorant —could be traced back to the time of Martial Law, when Mindanao was written off as unsafe, and its peoples became more misunderstood.
The first Philippine President to come from Mindanao can certainly do better than consign Mindanao to another dark period by declaring Martial Law, whether in our area or including the rest of the country.
While Mindanao had indeed known many challenges and conflicts even before Martial Law, their resolution can only come from an understanding of complexities and the historical nature of problems. It is this understanding of “historical injustices” that we expect the President to display and demonstrate.
We ask President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to desist from making further pronouncements about declaring Martial Law, and immediately account for the results of President Proclamation 55 that put the whole country under a “State of National Emergency on account of lawless violence in Mindanao.”
We challenge Filipinos to be vigilant and not complacently accept machinations to create scenarios of violence and “trouble in Mindanao” “spinning out of control”.
We urge local government officials of Mindanao to not endorse Martial Law as a quick-fix solution to our problems. The best help you can give to the national leadership is to do your job well with all the resources that have been afforded you by law.
We, your fellow Mindanawons, are prepared to help you as we move towards the Mindanao of our hopes without using the means that will only make Mindanao more troubled, and Mindanawons traumatized and fearful.
Contact Person: Mags Z. Maglana