The country can perhaps still recall the national nightmare that began on May 2017. At the time a routine arrest of terrorist leaders in Marawi City instead triggered a gathering of Islamist militants that drove out police and military forces before doing the unthinkable for Filipinos: the declaration of a territory of the Islamic State (ISIS). It would not be until October later that year when a concerted effort by government forces finally liberated a ruined Marawi from ISIS-aligned control, during which President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao, May-December 2017. For security considerations a one-year extension was given for all 2018, and again all 2019. But now another year-long extension is being proposed.
CNN Philippines reports that Mindanao might well see another full year of martial law over two years since the fateful Battle of Marawi between the government and terrorists aligned with ISIS. This is being pushed by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon from January 1 to December 31 of 2020, citing the continuing trend of communist and Islamist insurgencies in the area. Esperon especially points out the rise of activities by the CPP-NPA, normally prominent in Luzon and parts of Visayas, but recently established in Mindanao.
Speaking to the media this Tuesday, July 23, Esperon noted that CPP-NPA has become especially belligerent in the Davao and Surigao provinces, but also, alarmingly, within the territory of the recently-established Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanado (BARMM). This was attributed to the bigger focus by law enforcement and military to ISIS-aligned terrorist cells. Esperon notes that continuing martial law in Mindanao will better empower regional authorities to “control” population flows, as extremist elements tend to blend into any mass movement of people in order to spread their activities, such as when some Marawi residents moved away from the city and settled elsewhere in Mindanao.
It has been a testament to President Rodrigo Duterte’s strong sway over Congress that the legislators have easily approved not just the initial Mindanao martial law declaration but all extensions to its duration since. And as Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo during another media briefing in Tuesday sees it, Duterte listens to “those who are knowledgeable on the facts existing on the ground,” and will follow the recommendation of another extension of martial law over Mindanao. This is despite claims by human rights organizations that violations have already begun to be committed during the extended period.
For the year 2020 extension period however, Hermogenes Esperon proposed that it might not have to apply to Davao City at the request of Mayor and Presidential daughter Sara Duterte. That would make Davao City the first place in Mindanao without martial law since 2017.
Image courtesy of Philippine Star