Martial law can even weaken state formation
More than three weeks after martial law was declared over Mindanao, there are no signs that the Maute assault has become a centrifugal force for the Filipino Moro populace.
For one, it has not polarized the state and the two Moro factions in the peace process. For the greater part, it has not elicited broad support from the Moro masses. The M’ranao sultans who have spoken up to appeal for an end to the aerial bombings cite the physical integrity of an Islamic city they call home.
Other Moro leaders, notably Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, have issued scathing indictments of the Maute group. Hataman condemns Maute as khawarij—insurrectionists disobedient to Islam.
The thousands of M’ranao who have fled to outlying cities and elsewhere (many of whom reportedly have sought refuge even in Metro Manila) will certainly not call the Maute fighters their good Islamic brethren for the extreme discomfort that evacuation (where babies have become sick and youngsters have no school to get by for their future) has brought to
bear upon them. Many have lost not only their homes but also their livelihoods. One shudders to think how the aged
and the infirm are managing as internally displaced persons.
All these, however, do not guarantee solutions to the continuing divide between the Moro and settlers in Mindanao. Already, there are widespread indications of anti-Moro stereotypes being fueled by the non-Moro majority. “Finish them off!” has become a rallying battle cry in the Mindanao martial law; one hears this from the non-Moro as if to tell us—like what wrong historical values have done—that a good Moro is a dead Moro.
The declaration of Mindanao martial law started on the wrong foot. “I will be harsher than Marcos,” the proclaimer intoned in the usual braggadocio that certainly obfuscated the real intent of the proclamation. In the end, what happened was a conventional, combined military and police warfare that can be done even without martial law. Checkpoints can be established without martial law.
To keep Mindanao stable, one has to address first the root causes of the Moro conflict. That includes addressing the stereotypes between Moro and settler majorities, not to mention being inclusive of the rest of Mindanao’s indigenous peoples who are generally left out in the cold.
Under our weak state formation processes, where political leaders are hopelessly nonindependent and continue to foster scandalous political dynasties, Mindanao stability will continue to be imperiled. Courts can be bought; political largesse is even more rampant now under a system of “intelligence funds” in humongous amounts not
subject to audit.
One wonders how a hundred-strong force was able to entrench themselves in Marawi unhampered by military intelligence work. More astonishing was how the Abu Sayyaf cruised all the way to Bohol unnoticed by the state’s intelligence apparatus. What then for is the P12.5 billion in “intelligence funds” that a servile Congress appropriated for the executive branch of government?
The Mindanao problem is a problem that cannot be solved by military means. It appears incongruent that an administration which rose to power on the promise of change appears lost in the same means that Hispanic and American colonial Manila used to pacify Moro Mindanao. The non-Moro cheer this military adventurism; the more they cheer, the more the primordial Islamic ties of the ummah will be enkindled. Already, government has admitted that some political warlords have supported the Maute group with firepower. Mindanao history has shown us that weak politics based on money and identity has contributed to Moro separatism.
It must be noted that the military establishment has so far refused to bite the bait to be “harsher than Marcos.” For that we have to be grateful. But how long can it hold?
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.