STATEMENT: Commemoraring Marcos’ Martial Law while Mindanao continues to be under one

21 September 2018

Today marks the 46thyear since the deposed President Ferdinand E. Marcos, Sr. issued Proclamation 1081 which put the entire Philippines under Martial Law in 1972.

It is telling that it is being marked while Mindanao is yet again under Martial Law. This time, no less than a President from Mindanao has said that in Mindanao “the police alone or the law enforcement agencies of the country which do not ordinarily include the military is called upon to help restore order.” President Rodrigo Duterte said this on May 31, 2017. Two extensions later, restoration of order does not seem to be the only point of the Martial Law that we are experiencing in Mindanao.

We are told that the Martial Law under the Duterte administration is different from that under Marcos because guidelines have been issued about procedures to be observed at checkpoints and during arrests and searches; that we can still freely comment on media, particularly social media; and that increased security presence makes Mindanawons feel secure.

These may be the case in some predominantly urban areas but not necessarily elsewhere in Mindanao. Precisely because we uphold the importance of ensuring the security and wellbeing of all Mindanawons that we bear witness to other realities under Duterte’s Martial Law. Arrests, harassments, and killings of agricultural workers, farmers, unionists, the urban poor, and indigenous peoples have been reported but dismissed as political propaganda or clouded by the haze that is the ongoing violent campaign against illegal drugs.

If Martial Law is said to be the cure to bombings and other threats, it is not an effective one. A number of incidents have occurred since May 2017 in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, and Cotabato alone. Yet instead of taking a hard look at the premises and practices of Martial Law, the incidents are being used to lay down the arguments for a third extension.

Civilian authority in Mindanao, although needing improvements in many respects, is generally in place and has not been incapacitated. Mindanao local governments are even trotted out as providers of examples of good practices every now and then.

We do not need Martial Law in Mindanao in the same manner we do not need cardboard standees and look-alikes of the President to entertain us. Mindanao and the rest of the Philippines have serious problems that require hands-on daily good governance led by civilian authority — the growing sense of unease over high prices and the continuing grip of foreigners over our economy, a Bangsamoro peace process that needs to be brought to full completion, restiveness and frustrations over the recovery and rehabilitation of Marawi and other Lanao del Sur areas, the fuzzy and ineffective because detached discourse on federalism, and uncontained security threats, among others.

But Martial Law seems to have become the go-to cure-all under the current government. Much like the way it was peddled by Marcos until Martial Law reared its real, ugly, and vicious head.

Other lethal and more far-reaching effects of the current version of Martial Law in Mindanao are that it makes martial rule “normal” even when it is no longer called for, it is lulling people into complacency, and is strengthening ongoing historical revisionism to pave the way for a full return of Marcosian rule, not just by the Marcoses but also other interests so inclined.

The ‘cure’ has become a problem for many Mindanawons who are feeling its ill effects but this will not be acknowledged by those who are in power and benefit from the furtherance of Martial Law.  It is thus the duty of Mindanawons to commemorate Marcosian Martial Law and to continue to be vigilant under the time of Duterte.

iDEFEND-Dabaw   Konsyensya Dabaw    People’s CampaignAgainst Tyranny

Reference: Mags Z. Maglana, Konsyensya Dabaw