MANILA, Philippines – An outspoken Marawi civic leader offered another argument why martial law should be lifted in Mindanao.
Local government chiefs have increasingly become dependent on soldiers and police, explaining why most support a 4th martial law extension despite its impact on businesses and the daily lives of average citizens.
"Dahil 'pag may martial law, parang nagiging relaxed ang ating mga LGUs, hindi na sila nagtratrabaho dahil nandiyan naman 'yung martial law," said Drieza Liningding, chairperson of the Moro Consensus Group, in a Facebook video post he allowed Rappler to quote.
(Our LGus seem to be getting too relaxed and they don't work as hard since there's martial law.)
The video, posted on October 26, was his reaction to Marawi rehabilitation czar Eduardo del Rosario's expression of support for another martial law extension.
"'Pag may gusto silang gawin, ire-request nila 'yung mga sundalo, 'Kayo na lang gumawa diyan.' Bakit hindi 'nyo kayang gampanan 'yung inyong trabaho at kailangan pa sa mga sundalo?" continued Liningding.
(When they want something done, they will request the soldiers, 'Please do it.' Why can't you just do your jobs and not rely on soldiers?)
Marawi and the rest of Mindanao have been under martial law for two years and a half. President Rodrigo Duterte placed the region under martial law on May 23, 2017 after Muslim extremists took over the city, and requested 3 extensions, so far, which Congress granted each time. The latest is supposed to end by the end of 2019.
Lininding acknowledged that many Maranaos support an extension of military rule. Del Rosario himself said many Mindanao local chiefs backed it, including Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal Alonto Adiong Jr. (WATCH: Rappler Talk: Rehab czar Ed del Rosario on Marawi 2 years after)
But Lininding said this should not come as a surprise since local executives have benefited the most from martial law.
"To our local leaders, it's easy for you to request for soldiers, they can use this, the police, but how about us ordinary citizens who have no influence over soldiers, police?" said Lininding.
Peace monitoring group International Alert also concluded in a recent report that martial law was instrumental in reducing the number of conflict incidents and conflict-related deaths in 2018.
It said the establishment of checkpoints and strict monitoring during martial law helped control the transport of loose firearms, which led to the drop in violent incidents.
If martial law were to be lifted, a policy on how to control loose firearms must be implemented to prevent violence, recommended IA.
But for Lininding, Marawi residents may be getting too used to a state of martial law, which, despite it's benefits, is merely a "Band-aid solution" to deeper security concerns.
Martial law, for instance, has not been a deterrent to rido or clan wars, nor has it stopped the spread of illegal drugs.
"There are still plenty of drugs being confiscated now. If authorities would seize only a couple of grams before, now they are seizing kilograms," Lininding said in Filipino.
Rido would be addressed better if local leaders made a stronger commitment to resolving the conflicts without violence.
Depending on martial law would only be a step back for Maranaos, said the civic leader.
"Napaka abnormal ng situation natin. Itong martial law, abnormal ito, abnormal 'yung may curfew. Abnormal 'yung bawal tumambay. Alas otso pa lang, pinapa-close na 'yung mga tindahan," said Lininding.
(Our situation is so abnormal. This martial law, it's abnormal. It's abnormal to have a curfew. It's abnormal that you can't loiter. At only 8 pm, all the stores have to be closed.)
Martial law has also restricted the movement of people who need to do their business after 8 pm, like those who need to travel from Marawi City to cities outside, he said.
A visibly irritated Lininding also addressed Maranaos and Mindanaoans who publicly support martial law even if they spend most of their time outside the city and region.
If they think it's safe in Marawi because of martial law, why do you live outside the city? he wondered.
"You who are pro-martial law, go home to Marawi. Those who are abroad promoting martial law, come back here, live here. Work here so you can see what it's like," said Lininding.
Alternatives to martial law
A better solution to another martial law extension is increased police visibility and the activation of a joint military and police security task force, suggested Lininding.
Mindanao cities like President Rodrigo Duterte's own Davao City has its Task Force Davao for this purpose. Its mayor, Sara Duterte, has called for martial law to be lifted from the city.
Lininding also suggested strengthening the civilian Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team (BPAT), saying that these groups had been quite effective in the past in maintaining peace and order in some areas.
These measures would be highly preferable to martial law extension and the establishment of a second military camp in Marawi, said Lininding.
His group and other Marawi residents oppose the construction of this camp in a 10-hectare lot in Barangay Kapataran. Projected to cost the government P400 million, the plan also entails displacement of Marawi residents currently living in the area. Duterte had promised to compensate them.
But for Lininding, the camp is unnecessary because of the presence of Camp Ranao, headquarters of the Philippine Army's 103rd Infantry Brigade in the city.
A second camp would only heighten tensions and frustrate residents who will have to leave their houses to give way to the plan.
Unlike Del Rosario, other Duterte Cabinet members have been more cautious about expressing support for another martial law extension.
Martial law has been extended thrice, with the support of Congress and the Supreme Court. The current declaration will end on December 31, prompting new debate on whether Duterte should ask for another extension. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.