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Former Congressman, Magdalo Party-list
June 29, 2017
Martial Law, Mindanao and the
Mind of Duterte
Was There Enough Basis to Declare Martial Law?
1) The national leadership, especially the national security cluster, was abroad in Russia. Nor
was the National Security Council convened - supposedly to make an accurate determination
of vital facts as a basis of whether or not to declare Martial Law. Because of this, President
Duterte preemptively and erroneously declared Martial Law over the entire island of
2) This decision belied the following statements coming from the very members of the Cabinets
security cluster and/or the countrys security officials1:
- According to military officials, the situation in Marawi was under control and the
military was on top of the situation before, shortly before and at the time Proclamation
216 was issued;
- Four hours before President Duterte issued Proclamation 216 in Moscow, National Security
Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. categorically said that the Armed Forces of the Philippines
was in full control of the situation;
- About two hours before the proclamation, AFP Chief of Staff Eduardo Ao, in a television
interview said the military was in full control of the situation in Marawi;




- One hour before the issuance of Proclamation 216, the military reiterated that they are on
top of the situation, and;
- Twenty minutes before issuance of Proclamation 216, AFP spokesperson Col. Eduardo
Arevalo asserted in a briefing that the situation in Marawi has stabilized.
3) Further proof of the Presidents erroneous decision were the glaring inaccuracies in the
statement of facts included by the government in its official report to Congress 48 hours after
the declaration of Martial Law, to wit:
- That the Chief of Police of the town of Malabang, Maguindanao had been beheaded (he
was not and was very much alive);
- That a hospital in Marawi City was taken over and burned down by the Maute group; and
- That there has been an invasion citing as proof the presence of several foreigners among
the terrorists that occupied Marawi City.
What About the Maute/ISIS Threat?
The threat presented by the Maute Group cannot be downplayed. However, it would
also be a disservice to the public to create the impression that this same group - which military
and government estimates would put at no more than 500 armed members (conservative
estimates put them at roughly 200 to 300) - is capable of wreaking havoc all over the country.
Consider these antecedent facts: In 2016 alone, the AFP had already launched at least
three full-scale military operations centered on the Lanao town of Butig. In those operations, the
Maute suffered 80 casualties (63 killed, 17 wounded). This means that their manpower had
already been degraded by then. But given the intricate and intertwined ethnic and political
relationships existing in Mindanao, it would leave little reason to wonder when members of the
BIFF, Ansar al Khilafa, Abu Sayyaf, and the Maute end up fighting side-by-side with each other
against government troops in Marawi City.
But why the coalescing of these terrorist groups? The single biggest factor to consider
here would be the fact that in less than two years, erstwhile Abu Sayyaf/Basilan faction leader
Isnilon Hapilon went from a mere pledgee to the ISIS cause in the summer of 2014 to the


Islamic States designated emir (leader) in Southeast Asia - with no less than Filipino, Malaysian
and Indonesian ISIS fighters calling for others to fight for ISIS under the banner of Hapilon2.
With the staggering battlefield losses of ISIS in Iraq and Syria and the rapid loss of their
previously-occupied territories there, it has now become a less-costly and more viable alternative
for them to encourage affiliated groups to wage their Salafi jihadist campaigns elsewhere.
Unfortunately for the Philippines, this clarion call for terrorists has found a center of gravity here
in Southeast Asia, located in what security researchers call the Mindanao-Sabah-Sulawesi
Triangle or Triad.
But going back to Maute, are they the biggest threat to national security to emerge out of
Mindanao? Consider these historical facts for a moment3:

The Armed Forces has faced greater odds and has had to deal with an enemy force far
larger than it faced in Marawi City. Even assuming that we increase the number of Maute


3Research courtesy of the Institute for Policy, Strategy & Developmental Studies, Inc. (IPSDI). Data was provided by
the Office of Sen. Antonio F. Trillanes IV, Senate of the Philippines.


fighters found in the table above from 50-100 to about 200-300 based on my earlier estimates -
with the exception of the Ipil Massacre - the siege in Marawi would have seen smaller numbers
of the enemy compared to what the AFP faced (in descending order) during the 2000 All-Out
War, the Sulu and Cabatangan siege, and the Zamboanga siege.
So why, indeed, did the President have to declare Martial Law? (It could have been
argued that such a declaration would have been warranted, if only to cover the entire province of
Lanao del Sur.)
Read His Lips (And It Might Just Reveal His Mind)
It would be hard not to notice Pres. Dutertes penchant for sprinkling his public remarks
with the words Martial Law. In at least six documented instances when he became the
countrys Chief Executive, he had either floated or positively expressed his preference for
declaring Martial Law (and mostly within the context of prosecuting his war on drugs). So on an
average of once a month beginning August 2016, he has mentioned Martial Law each
succeeding month in his public speeches (even doing it twice in December last year). Incidentally,
after his last public mention of Martial Law in a speech last January 14, 2017, he made specific
mention of the looming threat of ISIS in another speech four days after, on January 18, 2017.

I am not ready to go on a limb and declare that there is a connection between and among
the Presidents repeated mention of Martial Law, his playing up of the threat of ISIS in the
country, and his open and very public public challenge for the Maute group to attack Marawi
City December of last year. Allow me, however, to dig up certain obscure matters. Two of them,
in fact.
One is the psychological report of clinical psychologist Natividad Dayan as part of the
record of annulment proceedings between one Rodrigo Duterte and Elizabeth Zimmerman-
Duterte. People would be quick to dismiss that like many annulment proceedings, the findings in
this psychological report are largely disputable. Plus of course the fact that this document came
to light last April 2016 at the height of the electoral heat. As I am neither trained in psychology


nor in political science, permit this non-expert to propound this question: Why did a lawyer, a
former city prosecutor, a former vice mayor, a long-serving mayor and a putative President not dispute Ms. Dayans
findings during the deliberations of the court, after the verdict of the court of original jurisdiction, and even when
these came to light again last year?
In the realm of governance, much has been said about the wonders that then Mayor
Rodrigo Duterte brought to Davao City. Let us assume for the sake of argument that Mr.
Duterte was singularly instrumental in making Davao City what it is today, consider the flip side
of the coin as well. When the myth of the safest city in the Philippines was being propagated,
the Philippine National Polices very own crime statistics belied all of this: For the last full year
that Mr. Duterte was Mayor of the city in 2015, Davao was the fourth most crime-ridden city in
the country (after Quezon City, the City of Manila, and Cebu City) with 37,684 index crimes.
What is worse, Davao City recorded in that same year the highest number of murder cases at
Which brings me to my next point. For all his boasting and bluster about being the best-
equipped leader to address the peace and order challenges (before, as Davao City Mayor) now as
President and Commander-in-Chief of the nation, is he really up to par? And how does this
relate to our concerns with the recent declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao?
I mentioned governance early on as a relevant parameter in this discussion. Pres.
Dutertes style of leadership relies on unquestioning obedience, little or no dissent, a license for
heavy-handed tactics and a lack of consultation and/or consensus. Simply put, from the time he
first became elected mayor of Davao until he relinquished the reins of the city to what would
effectively be hereditary title to the mayorship (to his daughter, Sara, no less and with a Vice
Mayor in the person of his son, Paolo), Rodrigo Duterte has evolved from a local warlord like in
most Philippine localities into an accomplished autocrat amidst a fragile and flawed democracy
that is the Philippines. This is the only way he knows how to govern. This has been his template
as Mayor. And this will be his template as President. I am not fearful of Martial Law because
the AFP and our soldiers are its implementors. I fear for the country because of Martial Laws
progenitor. #