CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews / 10 December) –The news that President Rodrigo Duterte would not ask for a fourth extension of martial law in Mindanao beyond December 31, 2019 was widely cheered by war-weary residents in Marawi City on Tuesday.
“It’s about time. This was long overdue but we welcome this development,” Drieza Liningding, chair of the Moro Consensus Group said.
“Mindanao can project a new image right now to attract business investments. Mindanao has long suffered a bad image because of lawlessness and martial law,” Zia Alonto Adiong, Member of Parliament at the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and former Marawi crisis spokesperson, said.
Adiong said in nearly three years of martial law, government forces managed to capture or tear down the followers and financial structure of the ISIS-linked Maute brothers who laid siege on Marawi on May 23, 2017.
Combat operations were terminated on November 23, 2017 by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, six days after President Rodrigo Duterte declared Marawi City “liberated from the terrorist influence.”
“The military objectives are fulfilled, now the island’s economy should start,” Adiong said.
Another Marawi leader, Agakhan Sharief, said martial law is “historically tragic” for the Meranaws.
“In the 1970s, hundreds of Meranaws were killed when then President Ferdinand Marcos imposed Martial Law. Today’s martial law also resulted to hundreds of Marawi residents killed,” he said.
Elin Anisha Guro, head of the library of the state-run Mindanao State University, said with martial law lifted by December 31, curfew in Marawi City should also be lifted.
Guro said curfew starts at 10 p.m. in Marawi City and residents are forced to sleep in nearby Iligan City or drive their cars as fast as they could to avoid arrests.
“I know relatives and fellow Meranaws figuring in car accidents trying to beat the curfew in Marawi,” Guro said.
She said Marawi residents have to endure these hardships for nearly three years.
“I hope Martial Law is really lifted at hindi drama ito,” she said.
Malacanang on Tuesday announced that President Duterte would no longer ask for an extension of martial law beyond December 31, 2019.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo in a Palace briefing said Duterte “made the decision following the assessment of his security and defense advisers of the weakening of the terrorist and extremist rebellion, a result of the capture or neutralization of their leaders , as well as the decrease in the crime index, among the factors considered.”
Major General Franco Nemesio Gacal, chief of the Army 4th Infantry Division said the threat that ISIS militants would extend their attacks to Iligan , Cagayan de Oro and other Mindanao cities have been eliminated in the past two years.
“The militants are reduced to less than 30 fighters from 1,000 two years ago. They are no longer a threat, he said.
Gacal said army forces have also sharply reduced the forces of the communist New People’s Army with 5,000 of its fighters and supporters surrendering in the past month.
He said President Duterte “seized the chance to bring normalcy to Mindanao,” Gacal said.
Cagayan de Oro City banker Arsenio Sebastian said Mindanao would “look better to foreign investors” when martial law is no longer in place.
“It was hard to sell Mindanao under Martial Law. Martial law is Martial law. It is very hard to explain to foreign investors that what we have in Mindanao is not outright military rule,” Sebastian said.
He added that the timing is perfect since a big foreign corporation has plans to invest in Phivedec industrial estate in Villlanueva, Misamis Oriental that could generate 10,000 jobs.
“Now our planners can concentrate on bagging the investments and planning to expand our infrastructure,” he said.
Balay Mindanao Foundation, an NGO that is active in the peace processes in Mindanao, also hailed the non-extension of Martial law.
“We cannot build and keep the peace by force,” Balay Mindanao chair Charlito Manlupig said. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)