Subject: Philippines: Martial Law in Mindanao, 5th Round of Peace talks didn’t start
 On the evening of May 23, President Duterte declared Martial Law in Mindanao, following a military clash between government forces and a group showing allegiance to IS in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.
The declaration is for the maximum period allowed under the Constitution – 60 days. But it can be extended. And President Duterte said he was prepared to extend the declaration over the whole country if there were IS groups in other cities.
There was an immediate and strong reaction across the Philippines against the Martial Law declaration. Here is one protest statement by a group of Bishops which has circulated widely.
STATEMENT| Martial Law declaration flouts peace processes, rejects lessons of history
May. 25, 2017
Statement by Sowing the Seeds of Peace in Mindanao
Sowing the Seeds of Peace opposes the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao. Martial Law throws out the headways in the peace processes between the Philippine government, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Moro National Liberation Front, and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
The complexity of the Bangsamoro question has been emphasized anew with the eruption of the crisis in the Islamic City of Marawi, Lanao del Sur. The MILF had warned of the “radicalization” of Moro groups due to the Aquino government’s failure to ensure the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
Militaries and governments in Europe and the United States are facing the specter of terrorism because these armed groups are the Frankensteins they have unleashed in their proxy wars for oil and resources.
Imposing Martial Law is a simplistic, militaristic, and an ahistorical approach to the persistence of the Bangsamoro problem. This Martial Law engineered by the triumvirate of Defense chief Delfin Lorenzana, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, and AFP chief of staff Eduardo Ano are burning the haystack to find the needle. They purposely blur the lines between the Maute and Abu Sayaf groups from the rest of the Bangsamoro people to justify their continuing fascism in Moroland. They also put to waste the social investments of the legitimate Bangsamoro groups in the peace process.
It is simplistic because it takes away recognition of the social dimensions of the continuing oppression of the Bangsamoro and their search for genuine autonomy; it reduces it into a peace and order issue. It incites Islamophobia and anti-Moro hysteria instead of forging unity against terrorism. It is militaristic as it levels up all previous all-out war approaches since the time of President Joseph Estrada. Allowing civilians with licensed firearms to respond to perceived threats will let loose paramilitarism and vigilantism which claimed many lives in the ILAGA wars of the 1970s-80s. It is ahistorical because it fails to remember that the Bangsamoro armed resistance was fertilized by Martial Law itself as preluded by the Jabidah Massacre in 1968 and from there grew in scope and intensity.
The Marcosian Martial Law of 1972 and Martial Law circa 2017 are both founded on the military’s arrogation unto itself as the “protector of the people”. History repeats itself with this continuing delusion of the AFP. The Filipino people will never forget the fact that Marcos staged martial law through fake ambuscades and assassination attempts.
The “siege” of Marawi as a justification for Martial Law in Mindanao is no different from the Marcos-time martial law it is mimicking and which the President promises to be as “harsh.” The declaration of Martial law in Mindanao was based on flimsy grounds, as the AFP contradicts itself by its own claims. AFP chief of staff General Ano had said the actions of the 50-ish Abu Sayaf-Maute armed group was for diversion from an earlier armed raid on a terrorist leader. There was no clear invasion and rebellion, therefore, to justify this imposition as required by the Constitution.
On the peace talks with the NDFP, the imposition of Martial Law now appears to be Plan B or an override of the interim ceasefire to be tackled in the 5th round of negotiations in The Netherlands. Why else would the GRP need a ceasefire if Martial Law is already in place? Secretary Lorenzana had made it clear that Martial Law is not just after the Abu Sayaf-Maute group but is also aimed at the NPA problem. This goes against the peace talks’ rationale of addressing the roots of armed conflict. Additionally, Martial Law puts into serious doubt the implementation of a socio-economic reform package that may be signed. Social and economic reforms, like free land distribution, simply cannot take place in an environment where an armalite rifle hovers above a farmer’s head.
We urge the President to lift this declaration. We oppose its imposition on the whole nation.
BISHOP FELIXBERTO CALANG                         SR. MA. LUZ MALLO, m.a.
Main Convenor                                                                  Convenor
Convenor                                                                             Convenor
Convenor                                                                             Convenor
BISHOP REDEEMER YANEZ                               REV. RECTO LARA BAGUIO
Convenor                                                                             Convenor
Peace Talks suspended
On May 27, the fifth round of peace talks between the National Democratic Front and the Government of the Philippines was scheduled to being in the Netherlands, but it didn’t formally start, despite both negotiating teams being ready. Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza announced that the government panel would not participate because the Communist Party of the Philippines had responded to the Martial Law Declaration by directing the New People’s Army to intensify its military operations. Later it became clear that the lack of a formal bilateral ceasefire between the two armed forces was also a stumbling block, even though this kind of pre-condition had been specifically avoided at the end of the fourth round of talks.
Back-channel and informal talks continued through May 27 and May 28, but on May 29 the Government of the Republic of the Philippines has announced it will not participate in the fifth round of formal peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
In a press conference, Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza and GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III said there are no clear indications that an enabling environment conducive to proceed with the formal talks have been achieved after two days of informal and backchannel negotiations. Efforts are continuing from the NDFP side to find a way forward. But the situation is ominous. The AFP has on its side intensified aerial bombardments and ground attacks.
In fact, the peace talks are the best way forward to end armed conflict by finding genuine solutions to long-standing and deep-rooted causes of the conflict. The 5th round of talks should be resumed immediately.
Migrante Australia statement on Martial Law
Martial Law is Not the Answer
Migrante Australia joins the peace-loving Filipino people in condemning the attack by the Maute radical Islamist group that killed a number of people, damaged properties and affected people’s livelihood in Marawi.
We also join them in calling for the immediate lifting of Martial Law (by repealing Proclamation No 216) in Mindanao whilst we express concern that the president might extend the coverage of martial law to the whole of the Philippines. We do not believe that it is the solution to the long-standing Moro problem in Mindanao or that it will solve the basic problems of the Filipino people. What the Filipino people need is just and lasting peace and declaring martial law is certainly not the way to achieve this!
When President Rodrigo Duterte’s response to the Marawi siege was to place the Mindanao under Martial Law on the 23rd May 2017, he – wittingly or not – threatened the freedoms, fundamental rights and civil liberties of innocent civilians in the whole of Mindanao. With his declaration, he has essentially renewed the military and para-military groups’ license to kill, hamlet, arrest and commit other forms of human rights violations with impunity. It is very alarming indeed that the people in-charge of implementing Proclamation No 216 (the likes of Gen. Eduardo Ano, Delfin Lorenzana and Hermogenes Esperon) are known human rights violators and fanatics to Marcos-style military rule.
Why should the innocent people of Mindanao be punished for the brutality unleashed by the Maute group? Why not do something to end years and years of exploitation, oppression, denial of right to self-determination of the Moro people and the indigenous peoples of Mindanao? To not do anything is to allow the Mautes, the Abu Sayyafs and other so-called terrorists groups of this world to continue operating and be used as excuse by the military to keep Mindanao in a continuous state of conflict. To not do anything is to allow the mining companies, the big plantations to exact profit at the expense of human rights.
Migrante Australia does not wish to see further suffering for our sisters and brothers in Mindanao, including the thousands of overseas Filipino workers originating from there. We who have families and friends in Mindanao are disconsolate, worrying about their life under martial law. We who have lived through Martial Law under Marcos fear for the lives of human rights activists and advocates in Mindanao.
We therefore call on President Duterte to lift Martial Law in Mindanao by repealing Proclamation No 216!
We also reiterate to President Duterte that the peace talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Moro organisations is the sure way to achieve a just and lasting peace, not only in Mindanao but in the Philippines.
Migrante Australia
26 May 2017