AFTER more than two years, martial law in Mindanao will end after Malacañang announced on Tuesday, December 10, that President Rodrigo Duterte will no longer extend it.
"The Commander-in-Chief made the decision following the assessment of his security and defense advisers of the weakening of the terrorist and extremist rebellion, a result of the capture or neutralization of their leaders, as well as the decrease in the crime index, among the factors considered," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
Mindanao was placed under martial law on May 23, 2017, several hours after an armed conflict erupted between government forces and the Maute terrorists in Marawi City in Lanao del Sur. In July, before the 60-day martial law would expire, Congress extended it until the end of 2017. In December 2018, martial law was extended for the third time until December 31, 2019.
Since the start of 2019, different sectors have been clamoring for the lifting of the martial law in Mindanao. If it cannot be lifted for the whole island, some recommended only lifting it in areas that are generally peaceful.
It can be observed that martial law has brought a sense of security to Mindanao months after it was declared. While it initially affected the island at the beginning of its implementation, things were able to pick up towards the end of 2017.
According to International Alert Philippines' September 2019 Critical Events Monitoring System (CEMS) Bulletin, Lanao del Sur experienced a "period of peace" after the 2017 war in Marawi and the declaration of martial law. The organization also reported that violent conflicts in Marawi have also dropped.
In the case of Davao City, it was generally peaceful in the last two years of being under martial law. While it negatively affected the city at the start of its implementation, things began to pick up towards the end of 2017. Despite the martial law, several events and conferences, attended both by foreign and domestic delegates, pushed through by 2018 and more were staged in the coming months.
However, martial law in Mindanao is not without controversy. Alleged human rights violations by the authorities have been reported by different groups but these were denied by both the police and army.
In a Mindanews report by Bong S. Sarmiento published on December 9, 2019, Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan) reported that "since Duterte declared martial law more than two years ago in Mindanao, at least 28 land and environmental defenders have been killed across the island." Some of the deaths "allegedly involved suspected or confirmed state armed forces."
“Martial law in Mindanao is seen as one of the vilest ‘investment guarantees’ that the Duterte government has implemented to pave the way for extractive and destructive big businesses,” Leon Dulce, Kalikasan campaign coordinator, was quoted in the same report.
Despite martial law, there were also isolated cases of bombing incidents in areas considered as "hotspots" like Sulu and Sultan Kudarat.
Somehow martial law has generally brought law and order in Mindanao. However, we cannot discount the accounts of alleged human rights violations that happened during the time martial law was implemented.
With martial law ending by December 31, 2019, we hope that even without it, authorities will still be able to ensure law and order in the island. We hope that by then, authorities have devised ways to strengthen the security in the island.