Statement by Sowing the Seeds of Peace in Mindanao
Sowing the Seeds of Peace opposes the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao. Martial Law throws out the headways in the peace processes between the Philippine government, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Moro National Liberation Front, and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
The complexity of the Bangsamoro question has been emphasized anew with the eruption of the crisis in the Islamic City of Marawi, Lanao del Sur. The MILF had warned of the “radicalization” of Moro groups due to the Aquino government’s failure to ensure the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
Militaries and governments in Europe and the United States are facing the specter of terrorism because these armed groups are the Frankensteins they have unleashed in their proxy wars for oil and resources.
Imposing Martial Law is a simplistic, militaristic, and an ahistorical approach to the persistence of the Bangsamoro problem. This Martial Law engineered by the triumvirate of Defense chief Delfin Lorenzana, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, and AFP chief of staff Eduardo Ano are burning the haystack to find the needle. They purposely blur the lines between the Maute and Abu Sayaf groups from the rest of the Bangsamoro people to justify their continuing fascism in Moroland. They also put to waste the social investments of the legitimate Bangsamoro groups in the peace process.
It is simplistic because it takes away recognition of the social dimensions of the continuing oppression of the Bangsamoro and their search for genuine autonomy; it reduces it into a peace and order issue. It incites Islamophobia and anti-Moro hysteria instead of forging unity against terrorism. It is militaristic as it levels up all previous all-out war approaches since the time of President Joseph Estrada. Allowing civilians with licensed firearms to respond to perceived threats will let loose paramilitarism and vigilantism which claimed many lives in the ILAGA wars of the 1970s-80s. It is ahistorical because it fails to remember that the Bangsamoro armed resistance was fertilized by Martial Law itself as preluded by the Jabidah Massacre in 1968 and from there grew in scope and intensity.
The Marcosian Martial Law of 1972 and Martial Law circa 2017 are both founded on the military’s arrogation unto itself as the “protector of the people”. History repeats itself with this continuing delusion of the AFP. The Filipino people will never forget the fact that Marcos staged martial law through fake ambuscades and assassination attempts.
The “siege” of Marawi as a justification for Martial Law in Mindanao is no different from the Marcos-time martial law it is mimicking and which the President promises to be as “harsh.” The declaration of Martial law in Mindanao was based on flimsy grounds, as the AFP contradicts itself by its own claims. AFP chief of staff General Ano had said the actions of the 50-ish Abu Sayaf-Maute armed group was for diversion from an earlier armed raid on a terrorist leader. There was no clear invasion and rebellion, therefore, to justify this imposition as required by the Constitution.
On the peace talks with the NDFP, the imposition of Martial Law now appears to be Plan B or an override of the interim ceasefire to be tackled in the 5th round of negotiations in The Netherlands. Why else would the GRP need a ceasefire if Martial Law is already in place? Secretary Lorenzana had made it clear that Martial Law is not just after the Abu Sayaf-Maute group but is also aimed at the NPA problem. This goes against the peace talks’ rationale of addressing the roots of armed conflict. Additionally, Martial Law puts into serious doubt the implementation of a socio-economic reform package that may be signed. Social and economic reforms, like free land distribution, simply cannot take place in an environment where an armalite rifle hovers above a farmer’s head.
We urge the President to lift this declaration. We oppose its imposition on the whole nation.
BISHOP FELIXBERTO CALANG SR. MA. LUZ MALLO, m.a.
Main Convenor Convenor
BISHOP MELZAR LABUNTOG SR. NOEMI P. DEGALA, SMSM
BISHOP HAMUEL TEQUIS BISHOP MODESTO VILLASANTA
BISHOP REDEEMER YANEZ REV. RECTO LARA BAGUIO
[RMP-NMR is a member of the Sowing the Seeds of Peace network]