25 May 2017
It is unfortunate that we are caught again in a situation where people have to live in high level of fears and uncertainties in their securities. This situation is brought about on one hand by terror attacks and on the other hand, by the counter-terrorism response. In both cases, the civilians and non-combatants are the sure victims.
Declaring martial law as a form of counter-terrorism and the threat of heavy militarization from government on one hand and the counter military actions from the enemies of the state on the other hand are among the reasons that we see in the exodus of the Meranaws from Marawi city to Iligan city and Cagayan de Oro city and other places. It is the excessive use of force and some features of Martial law that even peace-loving individuals are afraid of.
People who had experienced Martial Law during the Marcos regime can tell harrowing stories of ordeal, fear and insecurities in their lives and properties. This is especially so when President Duterte said that the martial law in Mindanao “could not be any different from the martial law declared by Marcos” and that he could be “harsh”. These statements make people think that things can get worst.
We thought that the situation in Marawi City was not worse than the Zamboanga siege in 2013. In the latter, the damage was big, the forces of enemies of the state were in big number and the fear was great. However, situation was normalized without declaring Martial Law. We were confident that military will be able to neutralize the enemies sooner in Marawi City.
We condemn any action, especially terror attacks as well as counter-terror attacks that create havoc, sending peace-loving civilians and non-combatants to scamper for safety, leaving their livelihood, the education of their children and their miserable existence in evacuation sites under the mercy of relief goods.
We appeal to both the government forces and those fighting the government to give the highest respect to the lives of the civilians and the non-combatants. For the government military forces to enforce its mandate strictly in accordance with the law and with respect to human rights and the International Humanitarian Law. We further appeal to the government to immediately solve the violence in the Marawi complex in order to send back the civilians home, especially that it is already the holy month of Ramadhan. Running violence that can spill over to the adjacent areas and may drag in other non-state actors, can adversely affect the ongoing peace processes between the government and the mainstreamed Moro fronts.
We appeal to those fighting the government to distance themselves from the communities in order to ensure the safety of the civilians and to spare the non-combatants and peace-loving individuals.
For the government forces and the enemy of the state, LET NOT THE CIVILIANS BE THE COLLATERAL DAMAGE. “Killing an innocent and peace-loving civilian (person) is like killing the whole humanity, while saving the life of an innocent and peace-loving individual is like saving the entire humanity”
Finally, we share our thoughts that counter-terrorism the military way can only have a very temporary relief effect. As shown in the experiences of other countries and even in the Philippines, the “hard” approach did not prevent extremism or terrorism to recur. The long-term solution is to dig into the structural, emotional and psychological causes of violence and extremism. Frustration, hopelessness and poverty are among the incubators of violence and to some degrees, extremist reactions.
It is therefore imperative that after the conflict, the sources of violence that can lead to extremism must be rooted out. The Bangsamoro, when given the space and adequate authorities, can help push development and stamp out the sources of violence and extremism.
Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS)