THIS was the reassurance made by newly installed Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano to overseas Filipino workers in the United Arab Emirates who are worried for their loved ones in Marawi City and in Mindanao.
Cayetano visited Dubai Saturday, May 27, to quell any fears OFWs have because of the violence in Marawi or the declaration of martial law in Mindanao. “Everything is being done by government to keep people safe,” the secretary reassured OFWs. This statement is welcome news, especially for OFWs with families in Mindanao who must be apprehensive because of developments happening in the country today.
Because of the raising of ISIS flags in Marawi City, President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law over the entire island of Mindanao. And because of this, a fresh number of OFWs have raised concerns that this would become another episode similar to what happened 40 years ago when then strongman Ferdinand Marcos placed the entire nation under martial rule for almost two decades.
For sure, the fear brought about by the ISIS gaining ground in Mindanao is reason enough to declare the entire island under martial rule. We have all been mute witnesses to the human atrocities being perpetrated by the ISI in Syria. We have seen how the conflict in that part of the world have caused untold sufferings to millions, Muslims and Christians alike.
It is but natural for us, and our government, to react as it has in order to stop this heartless organization from ever attaining a stronger following in the Philippines. And to this end, we fully support the government and Mr. Duterte in swiftly containing the situation.
But other statements from the President are just chilling to the bone. Thousands of Filipinos witnessed how President Duterte threatened to be just like Marcos in implementing martial law in Mindanao. His meaning in these statements is still up for interpretation, but the mere mention of Marcos in the same sentence as martial law in Mindanao is enough to remind us of the atrocities which occurred during the 1970s and 1980s.
Cayetano tried to assuage the fears by saying that “martial law is not the solution, but it is a way to find the best solution [to] what we are facing now (Marawi siege).” Still we only have to go back to what the President said to still wonder whether martial law is a way to a solution. In the same televised interview with Duterte, he mentioned that he is more than willing to be as ruthless as Marcos in order to “solve all the problems in Mindanao.”
ISIS, Maute, the Abu Sayyaf, the Moro secessionists as well as the drug menace in Mindanao are but some of the problems which Mindanao and Mindanaoans face on a daily basis. Does the President mean to end all these problems in the 60-days of martial law allowed by the Constitution? Because if this is his intention then for sure 60-days is not enough. Then an extension, may be?
Equally chilling is another statement Duterte made in the same press briefer. He was also quoted as saying that he is open to the idea of declaring martial law throughout the entire country. Sure he meant this would only happen should ISIS militants would suddenly transport themselves to Luzon, but saying this sends a scary message for Filipinos who refuse to forget how martial rule has brought about nothing but misery in their lives.
Yes, we support Duterte’s declaration, but only for this emergency. Once this threat has been nipped, President Duterte must lift martial law without hesitation. To prolong its implementation in Mindanao, or elsewhere in our country, will not ease any fears about its effects. In fact, it will only polarize the country further, and with a polarized populace comes more economic woes for Filipinos everywhere.