The Bangsamoro and the people of Mindanao continue suffer under grievous conditions

Press Statement | 18 May 2018

A year after the declaration of Martial Law and the Marawi Seige:

The NDFP-Mindanao stands alongside the Bangsamoro, the Lumad and the people of Mindanao and the country in condemning the atrocities of the US-Duterte regime’s martial rule since its imposition on May 23, 2017, which stemmed from the AFP’s failed attempt to “capture Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon.”

As if on cue, Duterte, who was then in Russia, used this failure as a trigger to order the AFP’s brutal seige of Marawi City, but this time, in order to fully justify the ferocity of its attack, played on the so-called “Maute-ISIS” threat as a pretext.

Duterte’s martial law covered not just Marawi but the entire Mindanao island, giving the AFP/PNP full license and control in containing and engaging against whomever the reacrionary state considers as “terrorist threats.”

What followed overwhelmed Marawi City with five full months of relentless ground attacks, successive aerial bombing using the latest bombers, jet fighters, attack helicopters and surveillance and combat drones, artillery fire from cannons and mortars as well as from armored tanks that virtually devastated the greater part of the city, obliterating business centers, residential houses and even mosques.

Despite the AFP’s scheme to hide the truth, over a thousand civilians were killed due to the indiscriminate firing and bombardments of state security forces, definitely much more than the ones whom the AFP claimed to have been “killed” by “ISIS terrorist” elements.

This also resulted in one of the most massive evacuations in the country in recent history, where almost half a million were forcibly made to flee from their homes and livelihood to look for safety. The evacuees were then made to suffer hunger, humiliation and mental anguish in poorly supported evacuation centers for months on end, driving not a few civilians to depression and even near insanity.

Outside of Marawi City, the main highways that traverse the entirety of Mindanao became literally riddled with AFP/PNP checkpoints that hassled and harassed motorists and passangers, forcing each individual to write their names and other vital information on logbooks. This virtually created an atmosphere of fear and intimidation for the general populace in Mindanao.

While AFP/PNP forces desperately showed that the martial law in Mindanao is “unlike” the martial law during the Marcos dictatorship, they could not hide the truth however that state terrorism was at its most vicious and grievous in many hinterland communities in the island.

Under martial law, the AFP’s Oplan Kapayapaan unleashed vile military operations in all regions in Mindanao that made full use of aerial bombardments and artillery fire to satisfy Duterte’s order to “flatten the hills.” In Mindnao, apart from Marine and Air Force units , over 51 army maneuvre battallions are deployed, which accounts, all in all, for more or less 72% of the entire AFP combat-effective forces in coutnry.

Consequently, AFP/PNP/CAFGU/paramilitary forces committed unspeakable human rights violations, such as extra-judicial killings, indiscriminate firing, prohibiting or limiting the masses of peasants from attending to their farms and other vile acts.

Apart from Marawi City, hundreds of thousands from various other Lumad, Bangsamoro and peasant communities in the island were forced to evacuate without any certainty of support.

Among the Maranao evacuees, despite repeated promises made by the US-Duterte regime (through the “Task Force Bangon Marawi”) to bring them back to their homes fully rehabilitated, they continue to be kept in make-shift tent cities in the outskirts of Marawi City.

Clearly, the AFP is lying through its teeth when it says that “80% of the evacuees have gone back to their homes” because no significant rehabilitation whatsoever that truly serves the interests of the residents has commenced, and, as things are, nor will there ever be in the near future. The leaders of the people in Marawi were not consulted on the much-needed rehabilitation of Marawi City, much less on how to bring their livelihhod back; and they continue to be denied of this opportunity even at this time.

Clearly, the so called “rehabilitation” planned out by the fascist US-Duterte regime is only intended to serve the profit-hungry interests of capitalists who have initially invested in the Marawi seige to secure for them profitable business ventures; and at the same time to secure new military bases for the AFP as well as for the US Armed Forces in the implementation of Operation Pacific Eagle.

Protest marches were organized this year to petition the reactionary government to allow the evacuees to return to and reclaim their homes, but, much to their dismay, they were blocked & threatened by the elements of the AFP and the PNP, offering the excuse that “clearing operations were still on-going.” One particular protest march mobilized nearly 50 thousand Moro and non-Moro Marawi residents and sympathizers who asserted that they be allowed to return home and enter “ground zero.” But, the petition of the Bangsmaoro leaders and protesters was only scorned and frowned upon.

Series of protests have also been mounted across Mindanao and the rest of the country to condemn the atrocities of martial law at the same time calling for its immediate lifting. But, instead of heeding the call of the people, the US-Duterte regime even extended martial law until the end of 2018, further widening the scope of its basis as to maliciously include the CPP and the NPA in its terror tag.

Thus, the NDFP in Mindanao calls upon the people of Mindanao and the rest of the country to unite and launch protests this month to press the US-Duterte regime to bring the people of Marawi back to their homes and fully restore their livelihood, and bring forth a resounding call to put an end to the death and destruction of Duterte’s highly repressive martial law.###

Ka Joaquin Jacinto