SC in a bind on ML in Mindanao

IT’S a classic case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. 

Whichever way the Supreme Court will decide on the issue of Martial Law in Mindanao, the institution would still find itself in a bind of losing its credibility. 

If it approves of Martial Law, some sectors would call it a lackey of the present administration and if it decides against, it is expected to further exacerbate the ongoing fierce fighting between government forces and terrorists.

The High Tribunal has started holding the oral arguments on ML last June 13.

 

Semantics

The arguments against Martial Law for being ‘unconstitutional’ and without factual basis and therefore ‘uncalled for’ have boiled down to semantics—rebellion and invasion versus terrorist agenda.

Those opposing the Duterte’s Martial Law are afraid that it might eventually lead to human rights abuses such as what happened during the Marcos regime when thousands became desaparicidos (forced disappearances).

Those in favor are pointing to the ongoing bloody battle in Marawi City where a ragtag group of bandits have actually attacked the place in a bid to turn it into a base of operations for ISIS in Asia.

After being informed of the situation, Duterte who was then in Russia when the attack happened, declared Martial Law in Mindanao and hurriedly flew back to formalize his military rule proclamation. 

 

Justifications 

Solicitor General Jose Calida cited the following comments in defending the declaration of ML, specifically about AFP report that some local groups have already established link to global terrorist group, ISIS.

Among them Abu Sayyaf led by Isnilon Hapilon; Ansarul Khilafah Philippines (AKP) led by Mohammad Jaafar Maguid; Maute Group led by Omar Maute and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters have formed  alliances for the purpose of establishing a wilayah (province) in Mindanao. 

Calida also said the Maute intended to burn down the entire city of Marawi on Ramandan day, May 26, to serve as the precursor for other rebel groups to stage their own uprisings across Mindanao.

But government troops preempted the plan when they tried to serve the warrant against Hapilon on May 23 forcing them to prematurely execute their planned siege of Marawi.

Calida added that there were five steps needed to gain the approval of the ISIS leadership, with the fourth "requiring the conduct of widespread atrocities and uprisings all across Mindanao." (And such could subsequently be blamed on the military).

 

Counterarguments

Albay Congressman Edcel Lagman, however, argued that the elements of rebellion such as removing the Philippines or a part from allegiance to the Republic or preventing the President or Congress from exercising their powers and prerogatives were not present in the Marawi crisis.

"Verily, there is no actual rebellion in Marawi City and elsewhere in Mindanao absent the culpable purpose."

Lagman said confronting and defeating terrorists does not need the imposition of martial law where there is no actual invasion or rebellion when the public safety requires such imposition or suspension.

He feared martial law will "inevitably result" in abuses, atrocities and repression of human rights and civil liberties reminiscent of martial rule under the late President Ferdinand Marcos.

"The repetition of such excesses is ominous in the wake of President Duterte’s statement that the martial law of Marcos was 'very good' and he would replicate it with equal harshness," the lawmaker said.

 

Propaganda War

Reuters said AFP spokesman BGen. Restituto Padilla refuted claims by Islamist militants of controlling 2/3 of Marawi City, saying that at best they control 20 percent of the province for the three weeks of fighting. Padilla said the militants had been beaten back into less than 10 percent.

Islamic State's news agency, Amaq, said that the Philippines military had "completely failed" in a first effort to regain the city, at least 200 of its troops had died and many had fled their positions amid fierce fighting.

Padilla branded the Amaq report "pure propaganda. Should we take their word that they control two-thirds of Marawi? With 202 confirmed terrorists killed why should we even give them the chance of airing their lies,” he quipped.

Almost the entire population of about 200,000 fled from Marawi after Maute gunmen stormed it, but the military believes that beyond the checkpoints now fencing off its main roads, there are still some 500-600 civilians trapped or being held hostage.

Padilla said that as of Tuesday, the number of security forces and civilians who had died in the battle for Marawi stood at 58 and 26, respectively with almost 200 terrorists killed.

Soldiers have taken the bridges going into Banggolo, the business district battered by the clashes, but there are still trapped civilians.

Meanwhile, in Cairo, Egypt, an audio message purporting to come from the spokesman of Islamic State called on followers to launch attacks in the United States, Europe, Russia, Australia, Iraq, Syria, Iran, and the Philippines during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

The audio clip was distributed on Mondayon Islamic State's channel on Telegram, an encrypted messaging application. It was attributed to the militant group's official spokesman, Abi al-Hassan al-Muhajer.

Apparently heeding the call, the ISIS-inspired Maute group launched attacks in the southern city of Marawi on May 23, two days before the start of Ramadan in the Philippines.

From Beirut, Lebanon, a spokesman for the Islamic State (ISIS) group praised terror attacks in the Philippines and Iran, in an audio recording broadcast on Tuesday, June 13.

"Children of the caliphate in eastern Asia, we congratulate you for taking Marawi," ISIS spokesman Aboulhassan al-Mouhajer said, referring to the Philippine city attacked by terrorists.

 

US aid

Lately, it was learned that the US has been providing ‘technical assistance’ to Philippine troops but there are "no US boots on the ground.”

The ANC said Washington affirmed its support for Manila's efforts against terrorism despite a denial by President Duterte that he asked for America's help in ending the Marawi City siege.

The military officers in the battlefield are said to have directly asked the support to the US under the Visiting Forces Agreement and other treaties, to help them find the global terrorists operating in the country.

Several private firms and individuals, Padilla said, have pledged livelihood packages and scholarship to the families of slain troops. 

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