Martial Law Mindanao
Cartoon by Roni Santiago

Is there really a necessity to declare martial law in Mindanao?

This question is being asked by Filipino Americans who have expressed concern about the alarming developments in Southern

In a speech delivered recently before diplomats and other foreign dignitaries, new Foreign Affairs Secretary Allan Peter Cayetano said that due to actual rebellion and presence of ISIS in Mindanao, the declaration of martial law became a necessity.

Cayetano assured that the government is steadfast in its commitment to abide by the Constitution.

President Duterte himself has justified his declaration of martial law in Mindanao, pointing out that the joint attack by the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups in Marawi City was seen as a move that could lead to their eventual takeover of the entire island.

“Considering the network and alliance-building activities among terrorist groups, local criminals and lawless armed men, the siege of Marawi City is a vital cog in attaining their long-standing goal: Absolute control over the entirety of Mindanao,” he said.

He was furious over the hoisting by the militants of the Islamic State flag in Marawi. “I made a projection that one of these days the hardest things to deal with would be the arrival of ISIS (from Syria and Iraq and other Middle East countries,)” Duterte said, referring to the Islamic State.

“The government must put an end to this. I cannot gamble with ISIS creating a permanent base in the Philippines because they are everywhere.”

He said he would not tolerate human rights abuses by security forces under martial law.

During a Senate hearing, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, responding to a question, said that the siege in Marawi could be contained without the declaration of martial law.

Recent reports had it that civilians are being forced to help the terrorists fight the government troops. One witness said, “They give you a weapon, and if you refuse to accept it, they kill you.”

From our standpoint, we see the martial-law declaration as an urgent measure to address the problem in Marawi. The situation in that Lanao del Sur city is alarmingly dangerous, and ordinary police actions could be ineffective in addressing it.

We should give the President the benefit of the doubt. He should be allowed to take contingency actions which he deems necessary under the circumstances. There is merit in his objective to nip the terrorist plot in the bud.

However, martial law should be only a temporary measure and should be lifted as soon as the Marawi situation normalizes. It should not last for more than six months.

With the extraordinary power vested in the President and the military under martial law, there is a great temptation to abuse it. We learned this lesson the hard way after Marcos declared martial law in 1972.

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