Beware of martial law extension
November is almost coming to a close. Soon it will be December. In 35 days, martial law in Mindanao will come to an end. Or so we think.
On Dec. 5, 2017, the Supreme Court upheld its previous ruling affirming President Duterte’s declaration of martial law in the whole of Mindanao. On Dec. 13, 2017, Congress again granted Mr. Duterte’s request for an extension of martial law—until the end of 2018. The Duterte regime had claimed that martial law was needed to guarantee the military’s plans for the rehabilitation of the Islamic City of Marawi.
All we know is that since May 23, 2017, when Mr. Duterte signed Proclamation No. 216 putting the entire island of Mindanao under martial law, Marawi City’s ground zero is still in shambles. Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are still in their temporary camps.
News summaries gathered by human rights organizations as of October 2018 reveal that 1,009 have been killed in the war, including 160 government forces, 802 alleged fighters of the local armed groups, and at least 47 civilians. Marawi City residents, however, believe the civilian casualties could be much more and have not yet been recovered.
The IDP Assessment Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees states that the number of internally displaced due to the Marawi crisis reached 359,680 individuals at the height of the fighting and airstrikes on July 22, 2017, with 94 percent of the IDPs staying with host families in nine regions and around 21,000 individuals distributed in 78 evacuation centers.
Consider this disconcerting incident alone related by human rights organization Karapatan from the Amnesty International fact-finding mission last year:
“Among the accounts documented by fact-finding missions was that of Idris Rascal, 55, and son Jalal, 25. On May 23, 2017, Idris and Jalal were on their way to evacuate their family when the two decided to rush back to their house in an attempt to salvage more belongings. Jalal’s sister, during the interview, said she saw with her own eyes how the bomb hit the house while the two were still there. Her nephew, Saypudin, 13, followed suit but the army personnel took him. Until today, Saypudin has yet to be found, and the bodies of Idris and Jalal have yet to be recovered.”
In the period since then, the government has not attended to all these evacuation camps. Kind souls, private foundations and Catholic academic institutions have freely hosted many of these shelters. So where is the guarantee that martial law will hasten their restoration and rehabilitation?
More than a year after Mr. Duterte’s martial law, Marawi is still in a humanitarian crisis. Reports of human rights violations have been largely hushed. Marawi City residents, say my M’ranao friends in civic advocacy groups, are fearful to speak out because of possible threats to their lives. One prominent advocate was advised by his parents to keep silent lest their family face grave repercussions.
Martial law in Mindanao is simply another reason to provide a bonanza for Chinese construction companies, some of which have been delisted by foreign monitors for questionable transactions. That is corruption, plain and simple.
So where is the new threat that Mr. Duterte must use to justify another declaration of martial law? Nada.
As has been warned by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, expect another puppetry show in Congress this December that will extend martial law in Mindanao. Many of these puppets are running for reelection. They will win — because our elections are elections of marionettes.
Tyrants have the distinct trait of worshipping the world of make-believe. For his fake fantasies, Mr. Duterte unequivocally qualifies as a tyrant. Tyrants believe that history will be kind to them. But history can also write about fantasies and fake news.
History will not be kind to Mr. Duterte.
On Twitter: @AntonioJMontal2. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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