NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental–Faced with the unchecked criminality in southern Philippine islands, particularly the beheading of a German by the Abu Sayyaf Group and by the unprovoked, murderous attacks and killing of soldiers by NPA guerillas, the beleaguered President Duterte started to float the idea of declaring Martial Law in Mindanao.
The President believed that under military rule with unlimited power to haul and contain perceived enemies of the State through warrantless arrest, terroristic rampages and all other forms of criminality would be curtailed if not effectively halted.
Doesn’t the President realize that his all-out war against the New People’s Army (NPA) and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is already an open declaration of a warrantless search-and-destroy operation against the enemies? If for that, what is the need for declaring Martial Law in Mindanao?
Martial law will not improve in any way the undesirable peace and order situation in Mindanao or throughout the land. What it will certainly do is disturb, if not alter, the lives of law-abiding citizens through a lawlessness that this time will be sponsored by the ruling regime.
Under martial law, the law-abiding citizens will not be protected from criminality but will instead be reduced by their supposed protectors to a precarious life of uncertainty and fear.
In the past, executioners and agents of martial law employed warrantless search and arrest to harass and persecute personal enemies; extort business establishments and silence and cow critics to submission to the regime.
The many bloodcurdling narratives of the traumatic years under the Marcos martial law years should be reason enough to oppose and condemn the imposition of martial law whether in Mindanao or the entire archipelago.
When a regime is overly concerned over its very own security and survival, it becomes paranoid and treats everybody as a threat and potential enemy. Such paranoia makes life difficult to citizens.
For instance, I learned from reliable sources–from some friends in the military and civilian authorities–that I was in the Order of Battle (OB) of the military along with all other honor graduates of Mindanao State University (MSU), campus writers and student leaders during the early years of martial law.
In those dangerous years, one who is in the OB is a blinkin’ goner if cornered and apprehended. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Order of Battle is a checklist of personalities declared as enemies of the State without an iota of investigation or due process. Fortunately at that time there was no computer yet where a database of State enemies can be accessed on line. Thus the OB–enemy checklist–was localized at the provincial level at most, kept by military personnel in airports and some checkpoints and was referred to in clarifying at random the identity of travelers or suspicious-looking individuals in public places. After a while, the mimeographed list would get worn out by use, become difficult to read and be discarded.
I eluded arrest simply because I had changed residence and moved from Marawi back to Butuan thence to MSU Bongao campus as a member of the faculty and thus was untraceable, or perhaps the first page of the list where my name was likely to appear was already worn-out and unreadable. But many of my friends who were still at MSU Marawi were rounded and detained within a month of the declaration of martial law at Camp Amai Pakpak. They were still detained in the military camp when the Moro rebels assaulted it during the Marawi uprising in the third week of October 1972. They survived the ordeal though, and in fact used their knowledge in ROTC in providing assistance to the highly outnumbered soldiers in repelling the advancing rebels. Apparently for that circumstantial heroism, the military released them unconditionally once the tension of the uprising in the area had abated.
But my teach-in companions during those street activism days in my then home place, Butuan City, were not as fortunate; they had disappeared without trace. I suppose I lost them all.
Come to think of it, how many young and budding Filipinos throughout the country were declared enemies of the State and lost their lives for the only crime that they were brilliant, critical in thought and were creative and articulate in that dark period of our history?
To repeat such history is a quantum jump back to the middle ages eon of years away from the universal goal of an enlightened and humane society.
(William R. Adan is a retired professor and former chancellor of the Mindanao State University Naawan campus in Misamis Oriental. -Mindanews)