The blood of the people of Mindanao flows under the US-Duterte regime’s martial law and all-out war against the revolutionary movement. In 2017, majority of the 126 victims of killings by the fascist military and paramilitary hail from Mindanao. Most of the victims are Lumads and peasants who are active in the struggle against land grabbing and for their rights.
Duterte’s reign in Mindanao is that of open terror in the form of direct attacks against civilians and their communities, Palparan-like killings, all-out destruction of the people’s livelihood and properties and widespread repression, illegal arrests and detentions.
Cases of human rights abuses which can be considered as crimes against humanity continue to rise. Among the most recent are the massacre of eight Lumads in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato and attempted burning of two small-scale miners in Masara, Compostela Valley. The months-long AFP bombing and occupation of Marawi City which left 3,000 people dead, an indefinite number missing and the P100 billion-worth destruction of an entire city can also be considered a crime against humanity.
Aside from Marawi, the AFP likewise displaced thousands of people in the provinces of Lanao, Maguindanao and other Moro areas, as well as in the provinces of Surigao, Davao, Cotabato, Bukidnon, Agusan, Compostela Valley and Misamis. AFP militarization, bombings and shellings, use of modern arms from the US such as war planes and drones, are widespread. Food blockades are imposed in order to starve evacuees and aid workers, while officials of local government units and that of local agencies are harassed.
In the island’s cities, threats, intimidation and outright attacks against civil rights and freedoms are the norm. Martial law gave local governments the authority to suppress the open mass movement and implement dictatorial decrees and measures such as checkpoints and arbitrary searches. Workers on strike are attacked and their unions dismantled.
Nobody is safe from the Duterte family’s vindictive and gangster repression. They openly threaten, curse and belittle anyone who dare criticize their fascist actions and corruption, including journalists who refuse to kowtow to them.
Duterte attacks his fellow bureaucrats, even former friends and cronies, if they go against bureaucrats who are more useful to him. He also pounces on entrepreneurs who are in direct competition with his cronies and allies. Using the 10th ID, he has targeted more than a hundred businesses and individuals on the excuse that they finance and aid the revolutionary movement.
From the latter part of 2017, Duterte has intensified his all-out war in Mindanao. These past months, he has deployed two new battalions in the island’s priority regions. He has also deployed additional battalions from Luzon to reinforce existing formations, the latest in Caraga. This region, as well as other priority provinces, are areas where resistance against mining, commercial plantation and other foreign plunder is strongest.
The regime launches widespread military operations, in combination with bombings and drone flights, in target communities to force residents to evacuate. They ravage these communities to compel residents to “surrender” and present them as “NPA surrenderees.” They intensified the “logbook” system, where residents are obliged to report to barangay officials and the police their visitors or whoever is new in their barrio. Checkpoints are strictly enforced and those without identification are immediately treated as criminals or terrorists.
Duterte will not readily end martial law in Mindanao. No less than his minion in the Department of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana has said that martial law is needed beyond 2018 since the AFP will not be able to defeat the NPA within the year. This is in contradiction to the AFP’s delusion to cut the NPA “by half” in the middle of the year.
US imperialism supports martial law in Mindanao. It gave them an extraordinary opportunity to directly intervene and command AFP combat operations after their special operations base in Zamboanga was closed in 2015. This January 20, the US made public the new “named operation” for Duterte’s “war against terrorism” dubbed “Operation Pacific Eagle-Philippines” to replace its Operation Enduring Freedom. In exchange of funds and arms the US will spend on the mission, Duterte displaced hundreds of thousands of Moros in Marawi City to give way to US interests and military bases. Under martial law, around 300 US soldiers have permanently operated in the country to lead AFP operations in Mindanao.
In this light, it is imperative that the people not only in Mindanao but in the entire country is made aware and mobilized against martial law in Mindanao. In reality, Duterte’s reign of terror prevails nationwide despite the declaration covering only Mindanao. Killings and repression are widespread in Luzon and Visayas. The national capital has the most number of extrajudicial killings under the “anti-drug war.”
There is an urgent need for national-democratic organizations to broaden and strengthen the people’s movement against state terrorism and fascism. One of their foremost calls must be to end martial law in Mindanao.
In the countryside, where the regime’s attacks are most vicious, measures must be taken to prevent the people from moving in different directions and fall into passivity. Propaganda work must be strengthened to expose abuses and violations of their rights. It is only correct that their struggles are brought into international courts and institutions to hold Duterte and the AFP responsible.
An alliance to end martial law in Mindanao must be organized. It can be composed of Mindanaoans based in Manila and elsewhere, together with church people, lawyers, students and other democratic sectors.
Inside Mindanao, anti-fascist mass struggles must be strengthened. These should be combined with struggles for decent living and social welfare.
Most of all, the New People’s Army should deal stronger blows to the AFP to defend the people who are relentlessly victimized. They should launch tactical offensives all over Mindanao to avoid enemy concentration in one or a few provinces and force the AFP to overstretch itself.