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Martial law in Mindanao



Martial law has been declared in Mindanao,  after armed men, identified with the Maute Group, clashed with troops in Marawi City in  Lanao del Sur. Initial reports, including  the alleged burning of the local cathedral, caused President Duterte to proclaim martial law in Mindanao.

President Duterte cut short his state visit to Russia to rush back to the Philippines, so great  is his concern that violence in Mindanao seems to be spreading. The Maute, along with the Abu  Sayyaf,  the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and other groups have long been operating in  southern Mindanao,  seemingly independently of the major Moro organizations  — the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)  and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

This April and May, the Abu Sayyaf undertook an operation in Bohol, where ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) were to meet. This was a long way from its usual haunts in Sulu and Basilan, causing great concern to authorities. But  that  group has now been wiped out.

The  Maute  raid  on Marawi City  is also  an operation  well away from southern Mindanao,  and  the initial reports  were so alarming that President Duterte  responded with  a declaration of martial law, under which government forces will be able to move more swiftly and decisively than under normal conditions.

But, unlike the martial declared by President  Marcos in 1972 under the 1935 Constitution, this one is limited to Mindanao and subject to limitations specified in Section  18, Article   VII of our present Constitution of 1987.  The limitations include the continued operation of civil courts and  review of the proclamation by both Congress and the Supreme Court.

In the next few days, we shall see the Armed Forces, supported by the Philippine National Police, mobilize to enforce martial law in the whole of Mindanao. This would be a good time to  coordinate with the MNLF and the MILF on a plan  to finally eliminate the threat poised  by small armed groups like the Maute  and the Abu Sayyaf  that have long plagued Mindanao.

The national government, led by a President who is himself from Mindanao, should be able to achieve the goal of restoring order without the abuses that marked the martial law of 1972.  These are indeed uncertain times in the life of our nation but  we  have the  greatest confidence in our officials and our armed and police forces as they carry on this new phase in our life as a nation.

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