Press Release
October 25, 2018

Hontiveros: Is Mindanao Duterte's "Martial Law Laboratory?"

Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros on Thursday raised the possibility that President Rodrigo Duterte has turned Mindanao into a "Martial Law laboratory" to test the sustainability of "full authoritarian rule." Hontiveros made the statement after the government announced that it is once again considering extending the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao after it was already extended twice.

"The entire Mindanao is under Martial Law for more than 500 days already. This is on top of the declaration of a state of national emergency last year, in response to the Davao City bombing. Post-Marcos, this is now the longest-running Martial Law in the country," Hontiveros said.

"Is this now the new normal in the region? Or is Mindanao Duterte's guinea pig for complete authoritarian rule? Is Mindanao now the President's laboratory for his dangerous experiment to impose Martial Law all over the country?" Hontiveros queried.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) recently said that extending martial law in Mindanao is "practical" given the coming plebiscite in January and the midterm elections in May of next year.

However, Hontiveros said that despite the implementation of Martial Law in the region, lawless violence persists. She pointed to the killing of five agents from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in an ambush in Lanao del Sur on October 5, the bombings in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat in August and September of this year, which killed 5 people, including a seven-year-old boy and a July 31 car bombing in Lamitan, Basilan, which killed 10 people and wounded nine others.

"President Duterte justified the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao by saying that he needed the measure to provide peace and order in the region. However, the continued injury and loss of life, this time of both civilians and police personnel, proves that a Martial Law-centric approach to curb violence and promote peace has failed to achieve its purpose, " Hontiveros said.

Hontiveros said that what Mindanao needs is a multi-dimensional approach that weaves together effective law enforcement, equitable distribution of social services and the full implementation of peace agreements, including the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).

"President Duterte must recognize and address the deep historical, political and cultural roots behind the prevalence and persistence of violent conflicts in Mindanao. As a Mindanaoan, he should know this. The declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao is not a magic bullet that would eradicate rampant violence and lawlessness in the region. Only petty tyrants resort to such lazy, dangerous and simplistic solutions," Hontiveros said.

A December 8-16 survey from Social Weather Stations (SWS) reported that 62% of Filipinos were against the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao. A similar survey in Ateneo de Davao, where the President studied in high school, revealed that 59.8% of the respondents did not favor martial law's extension in Mindanao.

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