Martial Law Extended To 2018 In Mindanao, Philippines To fight ISIS-linked Extremists

On Saturday, The Philippines Congress extended martial law over the island of Mindanao until the 31st of December 2017. After a 7-hour long deliberation, President Rodrigo Duterte was backed by 261 legislators who agreed to extend the current military rule over the region in an effort to fight the armed extremists who affiliate themselves with ISIS. Only 18 legislators voted against the motion during this special joint session that included the House and the Senate. This is the first extension of a period of martial law since the Marcos era and is thus a very sensitive issue within the nation. 

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana believes martial law is required to avoid more serious problems in the future, stating that “we need martial law because we haven’t addressed yet the existence of other Daesh-inspired groups”. After the vote, Ernesto Abella, a presidential spokesman,  said “We thank Congress for approving the extension of martial law until Dec. 31, 2017. The extension of martial law is essential to overall peace and stability. The rebellion in Marawi continues, and we want to stop the spread of evil ideology of terrorism and free the people of Mindanao from the tyranny of lawlessness and violent extremism.” However, there is opposition to the extension that is based on a fear that this is the beginning of nationwide martial law. Senator Risa Hontiveros, who voted against the motion, stated, “I fear that the plan to extend the martial law in Mindanao will pave the way for a Philippines-wide martial law.” During the meeting, approximately a dozen protesters interrupted chanting “never again, never again to martial law.”

Martial law has occurred in the Philippines before. In the 1970’s, then President Marcos declared martial law for almost a decade to tackle rising student protests, communist threats and a Muslim separatist movement. Again, in 2009 the Arroyo government declared martial law in a portion of Mindanao after the massacre of a political opponent by a powerful ruling clan based in the region. Although it is implemented as a means to control violence and has often reduced urban conflicts, martial law has also resulted in thousands of deaths over the past 5o years in the Philippines. This violent solution to political tensions and conflicts in the nation needs to be reconsidered because the damage has been imposed on society.

This particular issue began on the 23rd of May when a group linked to ISIS besieged the city of Marawi on the southern island of the Philippines. Within hours of the incident, Duterte had imposed the maximum period of martial rule allowed by the Constitution, 60-days, on the Mindanao region.
The conflict in Marawi City has resulted in more than 600 deaths, including 105 government soldiers and 428 ISIS-linked fighters. 45 civilians have been executed by the terrorists, and 40 displaced residents died from various illnesses. It is likely that there will be more deaths in light of the martial law extension, but it is currently the only means that the government can think of to try to stop the deaths that would occur at the hands of the extremists. Ideally, the region will be brought back to peaceful conditions within the coming weeks, and the military will no longer be needed. However, there is right for concern that the military will overstay.
Kate Eager


The Organization for World Peace