On May 23rd, President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law after ISIS militants rampaged through the Marawi City in Mindanao, an island south of the Philippines where most of the country’s Muslim population reside.
Terrorism has been a huge threat to the Philippines for the past couple months, but President Duterte’s decision aims to eradicate the insurgence of the terrorist groups before causing more damage to the rest of the country.
However, they underestimated the strength of Hapilon when accompanied by another extremist group, Maute, of at least 100 militants who were armed and raided the city.
The jihadist groups terrorized the city of Marawi by setting ablaze to schools, hospitals, and churches while raising the Black Banner on destroyed buildings as well as holding priests, parishioners, and civilians hostage.
Holidays like Ramadan and Independence Day will not ease tension anytime soon as Duterte declared martial law on the island of Mindanao for 60 days. In a state of emergency, the martial law calls for replacing civilian forces with armed forces and placing Marawi under lockdown while civilians evacuate the city.
As of June 16, 207 attackers and 58 troops have been reported dead in addition to 26 civilians killed by militants, but the numbers will continue to increase in the war-like state of Marawi for the next two months.
Many Filipinos question if the martial law might be doing more harm than good.
“It’s scary that small portion of our country is actually at war right now and if it persists, the crisis can be blown out of proportion and possibly affect the rest of our country,” says Joanne Santos, a 25-year- old who grew up in Marawi.
She now resides in Baguio City, and like most Filipinos outside Marawi, she has been following the Marawi Crisis since the May attack.
“Although I’m not directly affected by the crisis in Marawi, it’s a major concern for all people living in the Philippines. I’m saddened to see my hometown and the lives of Marawi citizens being put at risk, especially for children. If they haven’t evacuated or been rescued, the terrorists will show no mercy.”
Those still trapped in the city must risk their lives to escape the faces of terror, given that they aren’t held hostage. And while other civilians were lucky enough to evacuate at such short notice, displaced residents are left with insufficient food and supplies to last for two months.
Not only does martial law threaten Filipino lives, but also civil rights.
Martial law gives the government utmost power during a crisis such as imposing strict security, restricting media, and suspending habeas corpus– meaning that the military forces can arrest anyone based on suspicion of being affiliated with ISIS without warrants or trial.
Protesters believe that Marawi is not on grounds for the martial law since the attack was not an act of rebellion but “armed resistance” by Maute to protect Hapilon.
“Martial law may be the only solution to stop these terrorist attacks but we put innocent civilians at risks. It’s reminiscent of Duterte’s stance on the drug war,” Santos mentions about Duterte’s decision for extrajudicial killings against drug lords and drug addicts but resulted in the deaths of thousands innocent civilian.
“I know that many of us are worried that we might fall under dictatorship again since [President] Marcos did through martial law. Duterte seems hostile enough.”
If the terrorism persists after sixty days or spreads to the rest of the Philippines, Duterte is willing to impose martial law on the whole country, to which many fear the country may fall under another dictatorship.
Preventing from history repeating itself, Filipinos are protesting for senators to help prevent Duterte’s abuse of government power.
Not only does Duterte aim to eradicate ISIS militants from the terrorizing the Philippines but prevent the spread of terrorist groups in Southeast Asia.
If effective, international leaders may be influenced to follow the same lead, like President Donald Trump who had praised the Philippine president on his drug war crackdown and might even take notes to combat terrorism in the United States.