Why solidarity with Mindanao requires opposing martial law

“Conflict" has continued because instead of simply acquiescing as they were effectively subjected to colonial rule by Filipinos, the Moros/Muslims/and lumad organized themselves and formed various groups (the MNLF, MILF, etc), to fight for their rights – groups that, because their oppressors used arms and violence to subdue them, also felt compelled to use arms and violence to fight back. The history of Abu Sayyaf and Maute groups are nebulous, but available information suggest they were formed largely by rebels who felt betrayed after the government failed to deliver on its promise to grant them real autonomy, and who feel that they could only finally achieve their goals by fighting for an independent (and 'Islamic') state.

Oppression breeds resistance

It's easy to think of them as just dupes or stooges of ISIS (or of the CIA), but what more likely happened is that, isolated and desperate to attract support, they only adopted the language and ideology of ISIS (and perhaps accepted resources from them and other groups) in order to pursue their own homegrown goals. We may disagree with (and we should condemn) their methods, but it would be inaccurate to dismiss them all as mere "bandits" or "terrorists."

Oppression always breeds political resistance, and political resistance comes in many – sometimes ugly and detestable – forms.

This is why the "war on terror" now being being waged by Duterte – and being justified by his army of enablers – will not actually help but only further harm, and terrorize, those they claim to "care" about. Unable to once and for all pacify Mindanao, Duterte is once again unleashing the swords of war in yet another attempt to once and for all open up Mindanao to local and foreign investors and foster capital accumulation – something he could not quite do for as long as armed groups continue to fight the state.

But even if Duterte captures, tortures, or slaughters all the members of the ASG/Maute and other groups – just as Marcos and his henchmen tried to capture, torture, or slaughter members of the MNLF/MILF/etc in the 1970s, many of their sons and daughters will simply replace them, and much of Mindanao will only continue to be a valley of blood and tears, for as long as the injustices committed against the Moros/Muslims/lumad (and landless Christian settlers) in the region are not corrected.

The kind of military “solution” that Duterte is now pursuing—the same solution that Marcos (and Erap, GMA, etc) before him pursued, will therefore not work to end the violence; what's needed instead are political solutions – the same ones that Cory, FVR and others tried to pursue but ultimately failed to deliver. 

What's needed is for the government to conduct earnest and honest peace negotiations with the various armed groups in the regions and be willing to finally respect rather than suppress the right to self-determination of the Moros/Muslims/lumad in Mindanao. And the enemies or the "spoilers" here, let us be very clear, are not the oppressed but the landlords, investors, generals and other elites who, seeking to hold on to their stolen property, would rather that Mindanao continues to be ruled as a de facto colony.

There is another way to help, or be in solidarity with, the people of Marawi and the rest of region – just as there is another way to help, or be in solidarity with, drug dependents and the victims of drug-related crimes. 

We need to block rather than support Duterte’s martial law in Mindanao in order to pave the way for a different kind of peace that will not just benefit Mindanaoans but all Filipinos: the peace of the free and living, not the peace of the muffled, nor the peace of the graveyard. – Rappler.com


Herbert Docena has a PhD in Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley. He is a member of #BlockMarcos and the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino, but his views do not necessarily represent said organizations.