STATEMENT| Accountability, not nationwide Martial Law

Sep. 21, 2017

*Statement of Konsyensya Dabaw on the 45th anniversary of Martial Law declaraton

Accountability, not smoke and mirrors and certainly not nation-wide Martial Law

Konsyensya Dabaw stands with fellow Dabawenyos who believe that regardless of how we voted last May 2016, we should not shirk from exacting accountability from public leaders that have been part of our city’s history for the past three decades.

These are the days when our leaders should demonstrate that they can be counted on to unequivocally stand by their commitments without resorting to political sidesteps, and smoke and mirrors.

Smuggling of Illegal Drugs

The accusations and counter-accusations witnessed by the public during the Senate public hearing aside, the key issue at stake is that PhP6.4B worth of illegal drugs were smuggled from China into the country.

The whole anti-illegal drugs campaign would be rendered a sham if no real efforts are made by government to find out who are involved in the smuggling operations in both countries.

First because the magnitude suggests well-organized operations that enjoy the sponsorship of those who wield power. If this administration can be unrelenting in its drive against the foot soldiers of illegal drugs, but treat operators and financiers with kid gloves, then what makes the Duterte government different from the previous leaderships that were adjudged to have done little to address the drug menace?

Second because no less than the Vice-Mayor of Davao City, and the President’s son, has been implicated in the smuggling. Allegations of such a nature are serious, and should not be dismissed as merely partisan propaganda. Beyond colorful talk, the President has to consistently and clearly follow through on his declared intolerance of corruption, more so if it concerns members of his family.

Third because of the implications of the so-called Philippine pivot to China. If Filipinos cannot get concrete support to stem the flow of illegal drugs from China, allegedly one of the major sources of drug contraband, what would it mean for forthcoming big transactions between the two countries, the success of which rest on transparency, accountability, and responsiveness?

Peace Processes and Mindanao

While we welcome news of a roadmap for the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), we are concerned that signs indicate that it could get folded into the federalism track to the consternation of Bangsamoro actors. A botched BBL is not just a case of legislative failure, it means a failed peace process. Given the Marawi crisis and its aftermath, a failed peace process could mean a return to war in Bangsamoro areas after many years of ceasefire coming out of political processes.

But unlike violent extremists who present a fairly newer and more complex challenge, fulfilling the peace agreements and preventing a return to war are still within the control of government. The President can still opt to make durable peace in the Bangsamoro his legacy.

It is the height of irony that just when Mindanaoans are holding nearly all the highest positions in the land, we are being told that there will be “no peace in Mindanao for the longest time.”

Many Mindanaoans have known repeated dislocation, abuses and destitution brought about by wars, and deserve better than more years of unpeace.

For this reason, we also call on both government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines to go back to the negotiating table. Most of the fronts of the New People’s Army (NPA) are in Mindanao. The battles between the NPA and government forces are being fought in territories of the indigenous peoples, close to 61% of whom are found in Mindanao.

Weakening of Institutions

In his 2016 inaugural address, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte said that the real problem confronting the country is “erosion of faith and trust in government” and proclaimed his uncompromising adherence to due process and the rule of law.

But a situation where key institutions such as the Supreme Court, the Office of the Ombudsman, COMELEC and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and their leaderships are undermined as an insidious strategy to bring them to heel does not build trust in government. Rather, these maneuvers will, sooner than later, weaken institutions, and worsen the very problem that President Duterte wants addressed.

Citizens’ confidence in government grows when anchored on democratic institutions and processes that can be relied on for good governance and service delivery regardless of who is involved. Our experience in Davao City showed the importance of local government offices that could be counted on to perform their functions professionally, no matter who was at the helm.

Martial Law

Forty-five (45) years ago this September 21, deposed president Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr. issued Proclamation 1081 which put the entire Philippines under a state of Martial Law. It mentioned Mindanao at least 13 times associated with the terms “lawlessness,” “fear and panic,” “chaos and disorder,” “armed clashes, killings, massacres, arsons, rapes, pillages, destruction of whole villages and towns and the inevitable cessation of agricultural and industrial operations, and ” state of actual war.”

Marcos’s Martial Law created the conditions that intensified human rights abuses, exploitation and underdevelopment in Mindanao. Instead of putting a stop to the conditions described in Proclamation 1081, Martial Law under Marcos became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Proclamation 216 issued by President Duterte on May 23, 2017 placed the entire Mindanao once again under Martial Law and suspended the privilege of the writ of the habeas corpus. The Proclamation cited “violent acts” by the Maute Group in Lanao del Sur and Marawi City, charging that the group was intent on committing rebellion. It also said that the Maute and other rebel groups had capacity to sow terror and cause destruction in Mindanao.

Nearly four months later, Martial Law has not vanquished the violent extremist fighters in Marawi. Instead, airstrikes and sustained artillery attacks have done so much damage to the City that years from now its destruction might get cited as an example of yet another historical injustice and trigger more resistance. But Martial Law has managed to tap into the sense of fear of many urban Mindanaoans, and convinced them that it takes no less than “military supremacy” to ensure stability and order. This will only institutionalize a militarist order that would jeopardize civilian rule, affect the exercise of rights and socio-economic activities, and encourage collusion with political and economic elite.

It is not yet too late for Pres. Duterte to lift Martial Law in Mindanao so that it does not meld with other factors that would make Proclamation 216 a self-fulfilling prophecy of terror, death and damage the way Proclamation 1081 ended up becoming. Violent extremism poses a complex set of challenges that can not be met by a failed 45-year old formula.

Beyond the declaration of September 21 as a National Day of Protest, what would assuage people’s anxieties would be year-round actions, processes and pronouncements that consistently live out the intent of Proclamation 319 to “uphold the highest standards of integrity, efficiency and accountability in government.”

Ultimately, Filipinos will not benefit from measures that only trivialize and defuse dissent, and will only be set back tremendously by the re-imposition of martial law over the entire country.

Contact Person: Mags Z. Maglana;

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