While the people cowered under their beds, in the nooks they could find in their homes, and buildings burned down in Marawi, groups were fanning the centuries-old animosity between Christians and Muslims.
This was a necessary premise for what was soon to follow. Martial law for the entire Mindanao islands. The justification is not quite clear. At 11pm in the evening of May 23, the military said they had already controlled the situation in Marawi. But the ISIS flags were up around the city. And for the public who had already been prepared to accept that the mere appearance of these flags is enough to go to war, it is sufficient reason for the declaration of martial law.
Some of the military leaders on the ground questioned the spread of the ‘propaganda’ of the supposed ISIS – even going so far as questioning the authenticity of the group, knowing that they had been going after a local group not associated with any international entities. And yet the government immediately latched on this orchestrated propaganda. The Maute stopped being the reason for the declaration from the time the military declared the situation was under control. They have done their role of becoming the spark to the grander plan of putting everyone under military rule. And easily, the Moro communities felt the iron fist.
It is true that the Maute group has to be held accountable for kidnapping Christians and attacking Christian establishments. However, this is not enough reason to attack Maranao communities indiscriminately. The threat of aerial bombing, the all-out military response – these have been considered normal, necessary to defeat the enemy. It doesn’t matter what the effect is on the civilian communities who, to the impression of the general public, are all supporters of these armed groups.
We are dismayed that the President who dares declare martial law, suspend the writ of habeas corpus and allow military power to take over, is from Mindanao himself. We had believed that he would know how it is on the ground. We had thought that his previous involvements in the Bangsamoro peace negotiations would give him the insights he needed and saw the inappropriateness of resolving armed conflicts with more violence. We had hoped that he would understand the root causes of the conflicts we have in our island.
This narrative has long been written in the global war against terror – a war which does not distinguish religion from politics, does not distinguish an attack from defense, a civilian from a fighter. This war is blind to the root causes of the conflicts, basing only on generalizations, misinformation. It feeds on the malleability of people who simply consumes information offered to them without questions, without a critical mind.
Now more than ever, there is a need for interfaith understanding and empathy to mend the relationships torn by political agendas of the evil powers that manipulate humanity.
Advocacy Officer, RMP-NMR Inc