Was declaring Martial Law in Mindanao (with a land area of 105,000 sq km) necessary when the only place affected was Marawi City (land area 33 square km)? The Maute group which expressed allegiance to ISIS does not even have a sizable force and mass base. What has been happening is neither a rebellion nor an invasion. It was a PNP/AFP operation to arrest ASG Isnilon Hapilon that had gone awry and which transmogrified into the hostage-taking of Fr. Chito Suganob together with some parishioners and the burning of the cathedral and other buildings to evade capture. The report that the hospital of Amay Pakpak was taken over was false, so was the supposed beheading of the chief of police. These were cited as part of the justification for Martial Law.
The Secretary of National Defense denied that he recommended the declaration Martial Law and he admitted that the situation can be resolved even without Martial Law. It appeared that the president made the decision to declare Martial Law all over Mindanao while he was far away in Moscow lacking due consultation and deliberation. Meanwhile, there is a humanitarian crisis as thousands of families have fled their burning city that has been bombed. Meanwhile the PNP chief is echoing the president's story that the Maute group is being supported not just by ISIS but also by drug lords.
Majority of the senators and representatives have expressed their support for Martial Law and did not convene as a joint body as commanded by the Constitution to discuss and debate the validity of the martial law declaration. This can give a signal that the president can freely expand Martial Law over the whole country without any opposition. He has vowed to defy the Supreme Court should it rule against Martial Law. In the absence of check and balance, the country is sliding to another dictatorship.
This president behaves as if he is above the law - that he is the law. He has ignored the rule of law, and human rights, which has led to Extrajudicial Killings of over 10,000 people, mostly users and majority of them from the lower class. He promised that the killings will continue and will reach 50,000. He threatened to behead human rights advocates. These are not empty threats or jokes.
Meanwhile, the peace negotiation with the NDF has been suspended as the CPP ordered the NPA to step up tactical offensive as a response to Martial Law. The MILF is still waiting for the implementation of the peace agreement. Unless this is implemented the armed conflict will persist and drive more Muslims to the side of the more radical and extremist Moro groups like the BIFF and Maute. Martial Law cannot solve the Mindanao problem.
As in the past, the Church remains the only institution that can stand up against this autocratic rule. Will it continue to do so? Can the new CBCP leadership that will be elected and soon take over have the courage to be prophetic in this dark period of our history as a nation? Will the clergy, religious and lay people overcome fear and apathy and speak out?
We who survived and struggled to end the Marcos dictatorial rule cried out: Never Again! Will this be an empty wish?