No to martial law in Mindanao – REC International Solidarity Program

As participants of Responsible Endowment Coalition’s (REC) 2016 International Solidarity Program to the Philippines, we strongly condemn President Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao. Although we are repulsed by the violent attacks conducted by the ISIL affiliated Maute group upon civilian communities, we echo BAYAN International, Suara Bangsamoro and the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) in denouncing Duterte’s imposition of martial law.  The further militarization of Mindanao puts even more innocent civilians at risk and does nothing to address the roots of conflict in the country. By suspending habeas corpus (a person’s right to trial), bringing in more armed forces and allowing warrantless arrests, Duterte has broken his promises to protect Filipinos and has opened the residents of Mindanao to further coercion and state violence.

During our visit to the Philippines in 2016, we were able to visit 3 different communities in Mindanao; sharing experiences and learning about the Moro’s (Muslim peoples of the Philippines) and Lumad’s (indigenous peoples of Mindanao) struggles to protect their communities in the face of violent state repression. We shared space with community leaders and members who told of personal accounts of kidnappings, torture, and killings of family members by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Mindanao has been the focus of heavy military activity (with over 60% percent of AFP soldiers stationed in the region) and stereotyping for decades, giving the region a reputation for violence and breeding terrorism. But, behind the divisive sensationalism is a history of resource competition and exploitation in which the AFP and its paramilitary have been assisting in land grabs from indigenous groups and farming communities. In the interest of wealthy landowners, corporations and imperialist influence, the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) continues to use its military to coerce communities in Mindanao off of their traditional, mineral-rich and fertile lands; leading to hundreds of human rights violations and increased economic strain. The struggle that the Moro and Lumad people have been undergoing to stop the undue violence and killings against their communities will undoubtedly become even more grave under the newly imposed martial law in the region.

We recall on our time in the Davao evacuation center and the stories we heard from the victims of the 2016 Kidapawan Massacre to inform our indignation of increasing military action in Mindanao. The event left 3 dead and over 100 injured after the police violently dispersed a crowd of over 500 peaceful, indigenous protesters who were asking for promised food assistance after several months of severe drought that made farming difficult. The reaction of the government to open fire on its people instead of assisting them in this time of need leads to heavy concerns about the safety and rights of the people in Mindanao under martial law, especially considering the suspension of habeas corpus.  President Duterte has openly discussed protecting AFP soldiers who commit rape and killing those who defy martial law. His reactionary decision to implement martial law will only result in more human rights violations that will negatively affect communities for generations to come, adding to the tension and conflict in the region.  This show of force is already ruining the lives of innocent civilians in Marawi; so far, over 90,000 people have been affected by the surge of military bombings and fighting in the city. Thousands have been evacuated from their homes and pushed into makeshift shelters as the AFP conduct indiscriminate attacks in these communities. 20 civilians have already been killed in the crossfire between government soldiers and Maute fighters within the first 2 weeks of this war, and even more lives are at risk as the AFP continue to drop bombs on the city.

In coordination with declaring Martial law in Mindanao and suspending habeas corpus, Duterte has also halted the 5th round of peace talks between the GRP and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). NDFP groups fight for the democratic rights and liberation of the people through collective action and an armed struggle, but they do not affiliate with groups like the Maute; nor do they condone acts of terrorism.  It is through the work and struggle of NDF communities and organizations fighting for just peace in the country that we understand a resuming of peace talks between the two governments is the path towards peace in Mindanao and the rest of the Philippines; the GRP’s increasing military presence and violence will not resolve the situation . Only through the peace talks and resulting agreements can the government begin to address the root causes of poverty and conflict in the country.

Ultimately, we acknowledge that any discussion of Marawi divorced of a thorough analysis of the impacts of foreign corporate and imperial interests is devoid of the necessary pieces behind the struggle in the region. The conflicts in Mindanao is a legacy of Spanish and American colonialism which resulted in Moro (Muslim) and Lumad communities being stigmatized and displaced from their lands.  U.S. exploitation of the Philippines’ natural resources and its interventions in Philippine politics have also furthered national conditions of landlessness and poverty, especially within Mindanao.  Despite Mindanao’s wealth of natural resources it “remains at the bottom of the country’s “wealth ladder” due to the monopoly of landownership by Moro and non-Moro ruling elite, unjust mining operations by foreign corporations and their local partners, government neglect of basic social services, and unemployment. The perpetuation of stigmatizing the largest Islamic population in the country and declaring martial law in Mindanao serves as an excuse for greater American intervention in the region under the guise of “fighting terror around the globe.”  Despite the CIA’s role in training and supporting the extremists that later formed Abu Sayyaf — in order to further its own imperialist ambitions — the United States has long used “counterterrorism” as an excuse to widen its sphere of control.

Not long after pronouncing martial law in Mindanao, Duterte shared intentions to expand military rule in the Visayas and Luzon regions.  The country is still recovering from the wounds of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law atrocities; the Filipino people deserve to move forward from injustice. The time to act is now!  Support the people of Marawi, Mindanao, and the Philippines! We urge our peers in the climate justice community to acknowledge that ‘not in our backyard’ promises in the United States lead not to the end of exploitative fossil fuel industries, but the export of these practices to the lands of more oppressed peoples, internationally.  We reiterate that domestic fights against state repression must also seek to dismantle U.S. imperialist interventions around the globe.

We urge all of our peers living in the United States to support efforts in providing assistance to victims of the conflict in Marawi. We urge everyone to further the Moro and Lumad voices for self-determination that underline the roots of armed conflict in the region.  Stand in solidarity with Mindanao by joining organizations that are addressing the root causes of conflict in the Philippines. The violence in Marawi and Mindanao can only be truly addressed through Moro and Lumad self-determination, drastic socioeconomic reforms, and a just and lasting peace.

We stand in solidarity with the people of Mindanao, especially the communities of Marawi in saying NO TO MARTIAL LAW.

Show your solidarity for the people of Marawi by supporting organizations assisting directly with communities in Mindanao and working towards a just and lasting peace in the Philippines:

BAYAN

NAFCON

Source URL: https://internationalsolidarityprogram.wordpress.com/2017/06/13/no-to-martial-law-in-mindanao/

International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines. The ICHRP is a global network of organizations based outside of the Philippines, committed to campaigning for human rights and Filipino people's rights.