No need for Mindanao martial law after MSU bombing: Lawmakers

Instead of a military rule, a lawmaker said that it would be important to win the people’s support because it would eventually lead to terrorists losing influence in the area.

Gabriel Pabico Lalu

Gabriel Pabico Lalu

Philippine Daily Inquirer


December 5, 2023

MANILA – The government need not impose martial law in Mindanao even with the bombing at the Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi City which killed four people and injured 50 others, two House of Representatives lawmakers said on Monday.

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the bombing. Several top government officials, including President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., and Moro leaders have condemned the incident, with Marcos vowing to bring the perpetrators to justice.

“No, no, we should not [impose martial law],” Lanao del Sur 1st District Rep. Zia Alonto Adiong said in an ambush interview on the sidelines of a committee hearing on Monday.

“Okay, I think we should not resort to that because we do not want to cause unnecessary panic. The more that we panic. It’s also a sign that we are not in control of everything. So it should be the opposite,” he added.

“We have to be confident that based on the operations that our military conducted a couple of years ago, the numbers really dwindled. And you know what? It’s not only military action which should take credit, as there are also civilian defense interventions and measures done. Civilian support [is] very important to fight terrorism.”

Instead of a military rule, Adiong said that it would be important to win the people’s support because it would eventually lead to terrorists losing influence in an area.

“If you don’t have the support of the community, even if you pour down all your effort in the military course of action, it’s hard since we’re dealing with ideological warfare. It’s not finished with mourning the dead, this is an ideological issue.  So you need the support of the community,” he said.

“So what we need to do is based on the experience we accomplished after the Marawi siege: We need to win the people’s support, we need to win sympathies. By doing so, we do not only resort to military effort, we also need to invest more on the civilian defense scheme, or civilian defense intervention,” he added.

No more repeat of post-siege scenario

Similarly, Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas said that Mindanao should not be subjected to a scenario similar to what happened in 2017 after the Marawi siege — as then-president Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire island under martial law.

“A thorough and impartial investigation should be in full swing right now to hold perpetrators accountable and to deliver justice to the victims and their families. As we await further details from the investigation of the incident, we urge the public to exercise vigilance over those who will take advantage of the situation to spread disinformation and misguided rage,” Brosas said.

“Likewise, we warn against disproportionate responses from state security forces that will further incite violence in the region. We have seen this in the declaration of martial law across Mindanao in 2017, and we do not want a repeat of it,” she added.

Martial law extensions

Duterte was forced to declare martial law over Mindanao after Islamic State supporters of the Maute Group laid siege to Marawi, controlling it from May 2017 to October 2017,  after the killing of attack masterminds Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute.

But even months and years after Marawi was considered liberated, Duterte’s martial law rule over Mindanao continued, with the Congress in December 2018 granting his request for an extension until December 2019.

However, several progressive groups claimed that the martial law rule over Mindanao was ridden with human rights violations.

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