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What the SWS survey on Mindanao martial law tells us


By John Tria

John Tria

John Tria

Amid the excitement of the Manila ASEAN summits’ numerous agreements, bilateral pacts, and of course, selfies, one important item may have escaped attention:

The recent social weather stations survey (https://www.sws.org.ph/swsmain/artcldisppage/?artcsyscode=ART-20171110162800) indicates a result that government detractors and oppositors to martial law will find chilling: 54% of Filipinos agree with the July decision to extend martial law in Mindanao to December 31. Only about 28 percent strongly disagree with the extension of the measure. To quote the SWS release:

“Net agreement with Pres. Duterte’s decision to extend Mindanao martial law until end of 2017 was highest in Mindanao at a very strong +41 (64% agree, 23% disagree), followed by the Visayas at a moderately strong +22 (54% agree, 32% disagree), Balance Luzon at a moderately strong +18 (49% agree, 31% disagree), and Metro Manila at a moderately strong +16 (52% agree, 36% disagree). It did not vary across locales”

This is the first time public opinion on such was ever gauged. That the survey was done in September, or a few months after the uprising began samples a perspective distilled after seeing a long period of battle. Either way we see it, this represents a majority of Filipinos who agree with the measure with net agreement rated as “moderately strong” – even in Metro manila and Luzon.

The story here is how the result challenges the message being projected by oppositors that the Mindanao martial law would be despised as the same ruthless and bloody Marcos-era imposition.

What is glossed over, perhaps omitted, in their message is that the post-EDSA 1987 Constitution crafted by many victims of that particular martial law retained it as a constitutional option albeit with numerous safeguards. To our knowledge, all of the attendant processes were followed. Had Martial law been such a hated institution, then the consitiutional framers would have deemed it better not to write it in.

Moreover, this survey shows the support of many, especially in Mindanao and challenges those who opine that such a response by government was unwarranted and unecessary despite being allowed by the constitution.

The survey comes right before one Raissa Robles receiving an award for her book on the Marcos Martial law, and the Amnesty International (AI) report (https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/11/philippines-battle-of-marawi-leaves-trail-of-death-and-destruction).

AI reported that survivors and witnesses, and many described how IS-linked militants regularly targeted civilians and carried out extrajudicial killings in Marawi City. The AI report cites instances of violations both by government and the Maute group for which it calls for further investigations.

But perhaps unlike the statements of government detractors, the report focuses on the death and and destruction perpetrated in the name of an ISIS-led ideology, and cites the Maute group for violations international humanitarian law. This lends credence to the need for human rights organizations to also lend focus on the “non -state actors” they speak of, who function as a government in many areas, trampling on the rights of individuals, using arms to impose ideologies and bigotry against others, and worse infiltrating or destroying institutions meant to protect those who do not agree with them. The human rights of their victims were destroyed.

A public question being asked is: has our own Commission on Human Rights reported the same? Have they called out “non-state actors “ like ISIS and Maute as strongly as they should?

As the SWS survey shows support for the martial law extension to December, an answer is pushed: that the strong government response is no longer a despised option, and that future use of such institutions is warranted so long as the correct process is followed.

Flights within BIMP EAGA pushed

Early this month, the third Brunei -Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asia Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) Air Linkages Roundtable Forum was held in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, attended by government, airport authorities and private airline representatives from the four member countries such as Cebu Pacific, Airasia, Malaysian Airlines(MASwings), Lion Air and Malindo. They met to come up with actions to build connectivity within the region. Most important is hurdling the challenge of sustaining load factor on many of the previously operating yet discontinued EAGA routes.

While we laud efforts by the Mindanao Development Authority to continue pushing such initiatives, perhaps its time to convene a broader venue for stakeholders such as tourist associations and business groups to get the public involved. Load factors and usage of these routes are a matter of public usage so that their viabilities are strong. In recent experience, the role of bloggers and social media influencers has been particularly effective in getting people to travel, as word of mouth and selfies tell interesting stories. it would be good to engage them to bring people into these proposed flights.

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