Group backs martial but urges Duterte to disarm politicians and dismantle their private armies

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 28 May) — The Save Sulu Movement has thrown its support behind President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao, following the May 23 clashes between military and Maute Group in Marawi City, but urged him to disarm politicians allegedly protecting local terrorists and dismantle their private armies.

“The Save Sulu Movement welcomes the declaration of Martial Law but regrets that it has been declared all over Mindanao instead of focusing only in areas actually controlled and infiltrated by the Abu Sayyaf and Maute Group.  However, we are not in a position to question the wisdom behind the broader coverage of Martial Law as we can only speak for Sulu,” the group said in  statement issued Sunday.

It also said the key to the success in wiping out the terrorists is to completely separate and isolate them from the local government officials, otherwise “they can just easily mix as security escorts and bodyguards of the politicians.”

Army Scout Rangers take cover behind a military truck after Maute gunmen fired shots at them in Marawi City on May 27, 2017. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

It called on the people of Mindanao to give martial law a chance to address the terrorism problem perpetrated by the Abu Sayyaf and Maute groups that reportedly pledged allegiance to Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Another terrorist group the military has identified is the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

“We are confident that if the military will do it properly, honestly and without any taint of corruption, they will succeed in making the ASG history 60 days from now. There is no other option and choice,” the group said.

Last May 10, Prof. Octavio Dinampo, the group’s spokesperson, called on Congress to conduct an inquiry into the alleged links between terrorists in Sulu and politicians, and encouraged Duterte to declare martial law in six of 19 Sulu municipalities – Patikul, Parang, Talipao, Maimbung, Indanan, and Kalingggalang Caluang – for being the “craters of terrorism in Sulu”.

The group vowed to “fully cooperate with the authorities and reiterate our earlier call to implement the full might of Martial Law” in the six Sulu municipalities it wanted placed under martial law.

The group also warned Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the martial law administrator, “not to fall into the trap of mobilizing the support of the local government units because it is public knowledge in Sulu that the ASG and the LGU officials are conniving with each other.”

It also warned the military officials that ASG can “bribe the scalawags in the police and military to provide them protection.”

“This was done in the past that is why the ASG is still here despite unrelenting and massive military operations and counter-terrorism measures,” the group claimed.


In a statement issued May 26 and signed by Mindanao’s lone Cardinal, Orlando Quevedo, on behalf of the Catholic Bishops in Mindanao’s 21 Archdioceses, Dioceses, Vicariate and Prelature, the Bishops admitted they have many fears with the declaration of martial law in Mindanao but said its implementation must only be temporary.

“Are moral principles fulfilled? Were other means to resolve the deep and wide serious problems of Mindanao impractical and ineffective? Will the positive effects of Martial Law outweigh the negative effects? Will there be probability of success? Will it bring about a culture of accountability and end a culture of impunity? Will Martial Law increase human rights violations? Will Martial Law be abused for evil purposes?” are among the questions that have been raised about the declaration.

He said answers on whether  martial law can do more good than harm have remained to be “speculative” because for now, there are “no solid and sufficient facts to absolutely reject the declaration of Martial Law as morally reprehensible.”

“But we are certainly agreed that Martial Law must be temporary,” the Bishops said as they vowed to “condemn any abuse of Martial Law and as in the past will condemn it outright if it goes in the way of evil.”


“Let us be vigilant,” the Bishops said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)