Duterte vows ‘harsh’ mar­tial law in south­ern Philip­pines

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS -

Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte warned May 24 that mar­tial law would be “harsh” and like a dic­ta­tor­ship, af­ter im­pos­ing mil­i­tary rule in the south of the coun­try to com­bat Is­lamist mil­i­tants.

Duterte de­clared mar­tial law in the south­ern re­gion of Min­danao, home to about 20 mil­lion peo­ple, on Tues­day night af­ter gun­men who had de­clared al­le­giance to the Is­lamic State group ram­paged through a south­ern city.

At least three se­cu­rity force per­son­nel died on May 23 as they bat­tled the mil­i­tants in Marawi, a mainly Mus­lim city of about 200,000 peo­ple, with au­thor­i­ties re­port­ing that gun­men burned a Catholic Church and other build­ings.

“Our fel­low Filipinos, do not be too scared,” Duterte said from Moscow, where he had just be­gun an of­fi­cial visit that he abruptly ended to fly home and deal with the cri­sis. Duterte vowed to be ruth­less in quelling the ter­ror­ism threat in Min­danao, draw­ing par­al­lels with mar­tial law im­posed by dic­ta­tor Fer­di­nand Mar­cos dur­ing his two-decade rule that ended with a “Peo­ple Power” rev­o­lu­tion in 1986.

“It could not be any dif­fer­ent from what Pres­i­dent Mar­cos did,” Duterte said, as he re­minded Filipinos of his elec­tion cam­paign pledge last year to be “harsh” in deal­ing with ter­ror­ism.

“What I told ev­ery­one, do not force my hand into it. I have to do it to pre­serve the Repub­lic of the Philip­pines, the Filipino peo­ple,” he said. Duterte also said that mar­tial law in Min­danao could last up to a year.

Crit­ics of Duterte, who has waged a con­tro­ver­sial war on drugs that has claimed thou­sands of lives, have feared that he may use var­i­ous se­cu­rity threats as an ex­cuse to im­pose a form of au­thor­i­tar­ian rule. Op­po­si­tion Se­na­tor Fran­cis Pangili­nan, pres­i­dent of the Lib­eral Party, ex­pressed con­cern on Wed­nes­day that mar­tial law could lead to mil­i­tary abuses, cit­ing ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings un­der Mar­cos.

“Our painful ex­pe­ri­ence with the im­po­si­tion of mar­tial law un­der the Mar­cos dic­ta­tor­ship should serve as a re­minder that we must, as cit­i­zens, stay vig­i­lant,” Pangili­nan said in a state­ment.

Deadly clashes

The fight­ing in Marawi erupted on Tues­day af­ter­noon af­ter se­cu­rity forces raided a house where they be­lieved Is­nilon Hapi­lon, a leader of the in­fa­mous Abu Sayyaf kid­nap gang and Philip­pine head of IS, was hid­ing.

The United States re­gards Hapi­lon as one of the world’s most dan­ger­ous ter­ror­ists, of­fer­ing a bounty of $5 mil­lion for his cap­ture. More than 100 gun­men re­sponded to the raid by burn­ing build­ings and con­duct­ing other di­ver­sion­ary tac­tics, ac­cord­ing to De­fence Sec­re­tary Delfin Loren­zana.

Pho­tos posted on so­cial me­dia by res­i­dents showed the gun­men walk­ing through the streets of Marawi and plac­ing black flags that looked sim­i­lar to those used by IS. Loren­zana said on Tues­day night that many gun­men were hid­ing in build­ings as snipers, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for se­cu­rity forces to com­bat them.

There were no re­ports of fight­ing on Wed­nes­day morn­ing, although it was un­clear if the mil­i­tants were still in the city or had es­caped into nearby moun­tains and forests that they have long used as hide­outs.

Au­thor­i­ties did not give any up­dates on the where­abouts of Hapi­lon.The Abu Sayyaf, based on the most south­ern is­lands of Min­danao, has kid­napped hun­dreds of Filipinos and for­eign­ers since the early 1990s to extract ran­soms. The United States lists it as a ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Se­cu­rity an­a­lysts say Hapi­lon has been try­ing to unite Filipino mil­i­tant groups that have pro­fessed al­le­giance to IS.

These in­clude the Maute group, which is based near Marawi. The Maute group has en­gaged in re­peated deadly bat­tles with the mil­i­tary over the past year.Mus­lim rebels have been wag­ing a re­bel­lion since the 1970s for an in­de­pen­dent or au­ton­o­mous home­land in Min­danao, with the con­flict claim­ing more than 130,000 lives.The main Mus­lim rebel groups are in­volved in peace talks with the gov­ern­ment. But the Abu Sayyaf, Maute and other hard­line groups are claim­ing they want to set up an Is­lamic caliphate in the south for IS, ac­cord­ing to se­cu­rity an­a­lysts.

The US and other Western gov­ern­ments warned this month that ter­ror­ists were plan­ning to kid­nap for­eign­ers in tourist hotspots in the western and cen­tral Philip­pines, adding to long­stand­ing ad­vi­sories of ab­duc­tion threats in Min­danao.

“What I told ev­ery­one, do not force my hand into it. I have to do it to pre­serve the Repub­lic of the Philip­pines, the Filipino peo­ple,”

emon­stra­tors in Manila protest mar­tial law. Photo: AFP

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