MARAWI CITY UNDER TWO MARTIAL LAWS: A RE-MEMBERING OF THE ESSENTIAL TRUTHS

Have you already experienced wailing uncontrollably in a public event? ‘Yung tipong however hard you try, you just can’t stop yourself from giving a loud, unsophisticated, and raw cry of anger, pain and grief? ‘Yung tipong your fists clench of their own volition, and you want to strike at something –anything– and scream at the top of your lungs?

That was exactly what happened to me yesterday.

During Team Pilipinas-sponsored forum called “A Re-Membering of the Essential Truths about Martial Law” held in UP Manila’s Museum of a History of Ideas yesterday, one of the guest speakers was Mr. Haroun Al-Rashid Alonto Lucman Jr., a former Regional Vice Governor of the ARMM. He is also the son of the late Sultan and Congressman Haroun al-Rashid Lucman who provided his friend, Ninoy Aquino, with a legitimate passport bearing the name Marcial Bonifacio that the latter used in his tragic flight home in 1983.

Mr. Lucman presented a lengthy, harrowing and gut-wrenching narrative of what his people in Mindanao were made to endure and suffer, first, during Marcos’ 1972 Martial Law and, second, during the Martial Law that Duterte imposed in the south in 2017.

I have already read tons of materials about the abuses, transgressions and impunity during those very dark years, but yesterday was the first time that I got to listen about this largely untold story, from the perspective of a man who is deeply entrenched in the rich and colorful yet massively brutalized history of the traumatized Bangsa Moro people in Mindanao.

When I got the chance yesterday, I approached him, held his hands and, in a pitifully choked and halting voice, asked for his forgiveness.

I told him that, on behalf of a nation that has seemingly forgotten or, worse, has gotten desensitized and callous over the Martial Law atrocities, I would like to say that I was deeply and regrettably sorry. I promised him that, in my own little way, I will make sure that their story will be shared and heard, told and re-told over and over again until it reverberates in our national consciousness and gets to be passed on to the future generations of Filipinos.

At least that much, we owe to our Muslim brothers and sisters.

This is the full transcript of his speech that will surely keep you up at nights for many nights to come and give you nightmares when sleep eventually overcomes you.

15marawi1web
from Mindanews.com

Martial Law in Mindanao

When I was invited to this gathering, I immediately said yes, but when I was asked to talk about Martial Law in Mindanao, I said to myself; ‘that’s a lot of trouble and decades to account for.’

I hope you can bear with me because I have a story to tell.

In Mindanao, it is difficult to separate the twin evils – the Marcos ML and the present ML, if we should understand their debilitating effects.

In its simplest explanation, Martial Law has separated Mindanao from the rest of the country in terms of social, political, and economic development.

There are many factors that pulled down Mindanao to the lowest rung of these development indices. But militarization, and the abuses that followed its path, is the biggest factor.

The incessant wars in Muslim Mindanao have created a diaspora that continues to marginalize the Bangsamoro, not to mention that its over-all implication has cost the country much more than the cost of these wars.

Whenever there is war in Mindanao, the country and our people always end up the real losers. No amount of development is sustainable when war intervenes. Everything goes back to zero level, according to the World Bank.

I would like to start with the earlier Martial Law, from September 21, 1972 to its lifting in January 17, 1981. But just the same, Marcos ruled ruthlessly with or without ML till his ouster in 1986.

When Marcos declared Martial Law, there were questions from the international communities as to its legitimacy.

Despite the widespread conflicts already happening in Mindanao long before the declaration, the Marcos Regime had to instigate a major violent incident where it appears, or at least made to appear, that government establishments were attacked by rebels, in order to justify his ML declaration, for reason of rebellion.

And so the Marawi Uprising happened in October 21, 1972.

You may now be wondering; what is this Marawi Uprising? Is this different from the Marawi Seige that happened recently? The answer is, yes.

Are both incidents related to or in connection with the declaration of Martial Law?  Another yes.

Then you will certainly think; this is a strange coincidence.

Marawi erupted twice in the two instances Martial Law was declared in the country.

They say lightning never strikes twice in the same place, but it did in Marawi City. It is most unfortunate that Marawi City has become the favourite whipping boy of the powers that be.

As one US President has said; ‘fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.’ 

I am from Marawi City. Many of our ancestors lived, died, and were buried in that city. Our ancestral homes were totally destroyed during the 2017 Marawi Siege. Technically, I am still an Internally Displaced Person (IDP) like those more than a hundred thousand others.

On the day of the Marawi Siege, I was in my office in the ARMM compound in Cotabato City. I immediately rushed to Marawi which is a 3 hour and a half ride by land travel.

I remember there was no military presence in any of the checkpoints that we used to pass through all the way from Cotabato city to Marawi City.

Later on, there were stories circulating that a number of ISIS and Abu Sayyaf militants passed through that highway on that same day.

But this merely confirms what we already know or, at least, suspect a long time ago.  For instance, the Magdalo group admitted during the Oakwood Mutiny that the military was involved in the bombing of Davao Airport and a mosque in that city following the Mindanao War by President Erap Estrada in 2000.

This, and many more, tend to give us something to think about. How far does the government know about these incidents?

Going back to the Marawi Uprising of 1972. This was about a supposed group of Moro rebels who attacked Camp Keithley, a Philippine Constabulary camp located in the town center. PC is the precursor of the PNP.

It was a perfect battle scene. The rebels, numbering initially around 200, attacked the camp at the break of dawn. The actual fire-fight lasted for several weeks.

The only glitch is that, prelude to this incident, a group of Maranao leaders close to President Marcos, met several times to plan this attack.

The real insurgent groups had nothing to do with this uprising. But they were lured into joining the fray although they withdrew their forces when they sensed political collusion in this uprising.

Marawi is a small town where people get to know each other so that stories are told. We know who planned and executed the 1972 Marawi Uprising.

I speak with 1st hand knowledge because I was there. I was a sixth grader at the time.

I remember well when this incident happened. It was around 6:00 am when we are roused from sleep by a deafening burst of gun fires. We were barely able to bring anything with us when we rode away from the city.

We took refuge in a nearby municipality. Thousands of people were on the road trying to evacuate from Marawi. Some were riding vehicles, but, mostly on foot, but all in panic and caught by surprise by the incident. It took more than 8 months to be able to get back to Marawi.

The reason for the delay in the residents’ return is not much of the physical devastation of the city, as we see in the Marawi Siege. It is the fear of being victimized by the Army troopers occupying the city after the conflict subsided.

They were literally on a rampage, randomly arresting innocent civilians and, in several cases, shooting them for no reason at all.

The notorious Tabak Division of the AFP, brought to the city for peacekeeping, was the most ruthless, oppressive, and wild bunch of uniformed men you can imagine.

It is as if they were brought to Marawi precisely to terrorize the civilian population. Many persons are still missing to this day.

As to those civilians shot and killed by the soldiers, no justice was given to them at all.

In 1975, a grenade exploded right in the middle of a crowded gym during a musical concert in Mindanao State University, killing four and wounding more than twenty. All the victims are MSU students – some are Muslims, some are Christians.

I was there and I have seen what the army soldiers did. Instead of letting us out, they closed down the only gate of the gym and rounded up the building from outside.

Their weapons were pointed towards us as if we are their target. It took almost half an hour before we were able to get out and bring the dead and wounded to the hospital.

It was the University security forces who opened the gate. There are many witnesses to this incident. A 6th grader was one of the dead. He is the son of my sister.

Those were the times when many young men joined the insurgency movements.

One top MNLF commander told his story of how he became a rebel. He was riding a passenger jeep as a college freshman in MSU when they were flogged down by army troopers.

The male passengers were ordered to alight from the jeep and then and there, manhandled by the soldiers with their rifle butts.

He went straight to an MNLF training camp and never looked back. This happened in 1972.

Another case is that of a well-known MILF leader. His family, including his mother, was massacred by army soldiers and the notorious para-military force organized by the government called ILAGA. Their house was burned down and their ancestral land was taken away from them. It all happened in Lanao Del Norte during Martial Law.

I met him recently and told me that the images of his mother’s mutilated body traumatizes him to this day and continues to ignite rage in him.

At the time, we have no idea of what was happening in other areas of Mindanao especially the Muslim areas. The government maintained total news blackout on incidents happening in Mindanao.

But according to the Organization of Islamic Conference, around 300 incidents of massacres and other atrocities were committed against the Muslim population in Mindanao by the AFP and the ILAGA.

I can mention a few of the massacres;

  • Malisbong Massacre.

It happened in September 24, 1974 in Palimbang, now part of South Cotabato. 1,500 Muslim civilians including women and children, were slaughtered by the AFP. The entire Muslim village was burned to the ground.

A number of Muslim women were abducted and brought to naval ships anchored nearby where soldiers took turns in raping them.

  • Tacub Massacre, October 24, 1971.

This was prelude to Martial Law. Close to 100 Muslim civilians were ambushed by the military with the help of the ILAGA para-military force in Kauswagan, Lanao Del Norte.

I have seen the mutilated bodies of the victims when they were brought to Marawi.

  • Jolo Massacre, 1974.

During the recapture of Jolo, Sulu, by the AFP from the MNLF, scores of women were raped and mutilated by soldiers and their corpses were lined up on the roadside.

  • Manili Massacre, June 19, 1971, Carmen, North Cotabato
  • Zamboanga City Massacre, September 5, 1974, Zamboanga City
  • Buluan Massacre, July 16, 1978, Buluan, Maguindanao
  • Bongao Island Massacre, April 1980, Bongao, TawiTawi.

And the list goes on and on. In sum, the Martial Law of the late President Ferdinand Marcos was genocidal as far as the Muslims in Mindanao are concerned. It was the sum of all evils and injustices.

The Muslims did not fight the government in order to be different. We fought because we are treated differently.     

Please allow me to read a part of the report of MILF Chairman Alhaj Murad, now Chief Minister of Barmm, to the OIC in 2003;

‘In the ensuing war between the MNLF and the GRP following the imposition of Martial Law, more than 120,000 Bangsamoro have been killed, over 300,000 had to flee to the neighbouring Malaysia as refugees, and about 1 million in the homeland were uprooted, displaced, and rendered destitute by the conflict.

More than three hundred mosques were burned and desecrated while farms by the thousands of hectares (were abandoned by the Muslim owners fearing for their lives) were seized by the military, para-military forces, settlers, and their landlord patrons.

About 82% of the Bangsamoro ancestral lands fell into the hands of these land grabbers. Only 15% remained in the possession of the Bangsamoro people.

Were it not for the determined resistance put up by the Bangsamoro, all Muslim lands would have been forcibly taken by the government.’

We now proceed to the Martial Law of President Duterte.

As you know, Duterte’s Martial Law was declared in May 23, 2017 on the same day the Marawi Siege erupted. The declaration was hastily done while he was on a state visit to Russia.

Compared to the Marcos Martial Law, the security forces are more disciplined and more professional this time.

But this is not to say no abuses were committed during the Siege. There are still a few rogues in the military and PNP. Too much power demonizes men, it seems.

Aside from the destruction of houses and other buildings through indiscriminate carpet bombing and burning, the widespread looting of personal belongings or properties of the Marawi residents equally did terrible damage.

Money, jewelries, family heirlooms, furnitures, appliances, and other valuables were spirited away from Marawi in truckloads, right before our eyes. Nobody dared to complain because it is Martial Law. But we know who did it.

More than a thousand civilians are still missing to this day. Many are believed to have perished in the carpet bombings but some are victims of summary executions.

We even asked for a congressional investigation on the Marawi Siege.

Buti pa yung nangyari sa Resorts World na halos kasabay ng siege napagusapan sa kongreso.

It has been more than two years since the siege ended and yet congress continues to look the other way and the government likewise continues to renege on the rehabilitation of Marawi.

Imagine yourself living in temporary shelters for more than two years. It is very unsettling, not mention humiliating and dehumanizing.

I know many people who had comfortable lives doing profitable businesses in Marawi but now struggling to simply survive.

Everything they built or established through their sweat and capital were gone in an instant.

I recently ran for congress partly for this purpose but I lost because the political lords are against me. I was a Liberal Party candidate standing against the establishment.

I was invited to join the party administration, but I refused to join them on principle. My father died abroad, in 1984, fighting Marcos and his Martial Law regime alongside Sen. Ninoy Aquino and other opposition leaders on exile at the time.

Martial Law has been extended several times already. During its first extension, I was a lone oppositor among the elected Muslim officials. My main reason is economy.

I argued that based on government records, Marawi city has a population of more than 200,000 persons. The number of IDPs has reached more than 500,000, far exceeding the Marawi population.

The reason is that people in other towns of Lanao Del Sur also ran away because they fear Martial Law. The Martial Law of Marcos was still fresh in their minds. It was repressive, abusive, inhumane, and violent.

In addition, the security forces imposed 6pm to 6am curfew hours, and a lockdown, which means no entry, no exit policy in the coastal towns of the province. Their economic lives were literally shut down by the government.

Those are farming communities relying on agriculture for their livelihood. They were forced to abandon their way of life and take refuge elsewhere for several months with literally nothing to live by.

Later on, the government realized its adverse effects, but it was too late. People already took refuge in other provinces.

Government had to feed more than 500,000 IDPs at the height of the siege. It was a costly mistake, yet gov’t decided to carry on with Martial Law.

Today, there is relative peace in Muslim Mindanao especially with the recent peace deal of the government and MILF, leading to the creation of BARMM. But Martial Law remains an economic burden.

Economy is now the main concern of the people of Mindanao because poverty is their biggest enemy.

Investments are slow to come in because investors naturally have security issues with places under Martial Law.

Martial Law obviously means there is trouble with law and order in areas covered by it.

Everybody believes this, which makes us realize that this ML is not truly intended for the purposes mentioned or those provided by law.

President Duterte mentioned in a press briefing sometime in 2016 that he is contemplating a copycat Marcos Martial Law if he should make a declaration. It looks like it is, indeed, a copycat.

Martial Law has put so much disadvantage to the people of Mindanao. To us Muslims, the abuses suffered by our people are too painful to forget, especially during the Marcos regime.

The challenges of unity in this country hinges mainly on how this historical suffering can be healed by the government.

The first time I heard about Local Autonomy is when Sen. Ninoy Aquino spoke about it when he visited my father in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in 1982.

His idea was to provide self-governance to the Muslims as well as winning their trust on the government as key to national unity and healing because, according to him, the Muslims suffered so much deprivations and injustices in the hands of the government that, if not sincerely addressed, it will eventually cause the dis-integration of the country.

Despite all the peace efforts, there is still this deep-seated mistrust between the government and the Bangsamoro. And this is historical. Time and again, our people are made to feel it through government actions and policies in Muslim Mindanao.

On the other hand, Ninoy’s offer may have just been a gesture of goodwill. But the gist of that offer is the recognition of the need to rectify the historical injustices committed against the Muslims.

And much of these injustices happened during Martial Law, both the past and the present.

In reflection, the conflict in Mindanao will not end through military means. And no matter how many peace agreements are signed, insurgency will persist. New groups will emerge with renewed motivation, vigor, aggressiveness, and with different faces. We now see the face of radicalism. It is frightening to all of us, Muslim and Christian alike.

Military solution is never enough. Equal parity as well as sincere and meaningful effort to ensure peace and progress to our people will do better.

This is the aspiration of our people. Autonomy is just a measure of self-government to give us, most importantly, a sense of security from government abuses.

Come to think of it. Despite the conflicts, 60 % of the raw material production of the country comes from Mindanao. This is according to NEDA.

We can just imagine Mindanao’s economic potentials if given a more stable peace and development environment.

May the Almighty God give us the strength to overcome the challenges of our times and heal the wounds that continue to divide this nation.

Amen.

My profound gratitude to the organizers of this forum. Thank you for this opportunity to speak before you.

Have a good day. Assalamu Alaikum.

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