Posted: May 26, 2018 in Uncategorized

A report by Sandugo, Suara Bangasa Moro, Karapatan, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan

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On May 23, 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte declared Proclamation 216 that placed the whole of Mindanao under Martial Law, including the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. This was in reaction to reports that a small band of armed men identifying themselves as Dawlah Islamiya, had staged attacks around the Islamic City of Marawi while President Duterte was in Russia for an official visit.


Dawlah Islamiya was led by brothers Omar and Abdullah Maute, former members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), who pledged allegiance and started to set-up “ISIS camps” in their hometown of Butig, Lanao del Sur. In their siege of Marawi City, they were aided by Isnilon Hapilon, a known Abu Sayyaf commander from the island of Basilan, who was proclaimed ISIS Emir in Southeast Asia.  The government was supposed to serve a warrant for Hapilon’s arrest on May 23 on the basis of a US$5 million bounty put up by the US State Department for alleged terrorist acts against US citizens.


At around 10pm in the Philippines, Duterte had signed a proclamation placing the entire island of Mindanao under Martial Law. The scope of Martial Law was way bigger than the area where the actual armed conflict was taking place – in Marawi.


Under the Constitution, Martial Law could last for 60 days. Duterte needed to report to Congress about the basis for declaring Martial Law. Congress, however, did not convene for a special session to determine whether or not to revoke Martial Law. Petitions where then filed questioning the factual basis of Martial Law for the entire Mindanao region, especially since the fighting was limited to Marawi and its surroundings. The Supreme Court ruled on these petitions within the required period, and upheld the validity of Duterte’s Martial Law. The Supreme Court’s majority decision held that the President need not wait for fighting to spread to other regions before placing those regions under Martial Law. The SC decision set a very dangerous precedent, according to critics.


Through a joint session of Congress, just before the State of the Nation, Martial Law was extended, from the original 60-days to another 5 months, until December 31, 2017. At this time, Marawi has experienced almost daily bombings by government forces. There have been more than 403,000 civilians displaced by the fighting. As of October 2018, according to news reports, 1,009 have been killed in the war, including 160 government forces, 802 alleged fighters of the local armed groups, and at least 47 civilians. Marawi residents believe many more have died and have not yet been recovered.


When fighting had died down, and with government declaring victory in Marawi, the people demanded the immediate lifting of Martial Law in Mindanao. This would not happen though. After the breakdown of the GRP and NDFP peace talks, and with Duterte declaring the CPP-NPA as “terrorist” organizations, Martial Law for Mindanao was extended by Congress for another year.


Different groups again questioned before the Supreme Court the validity of extending Martial Law for another year. How can government continue to justify Martial Law in Mindanao if the fighting in Marawi was already over? How can Duterte introduce a new “threat” that was not in the original declaration of Martial Law? Indeed, there was already the view that Martial Law will be used – not for suspected ISIS-inspired groups – but against the people, and the revolutionary forces of the CPP-NPA.


True enough, Martial Law provided the support for intensified counter-insurgency operations, against the CPP-NPA, and their suspected supporters now branded as “terrorists”.


On December 5, the Supreme Court upheld its ruling, affirming President Duterte’s declaration of martial law in the whole of Mindanao. On December 14, 2017, Congress again granted President Duterte’s request for an extension of Martial Law – until the end of year 2018. The regime claimed that Martial Law is needed to ensure the military’s plans for rehabilitation of Marawi City.


Within the first quarter of the 2018, cases of human rights violations involving farmers, Lumad, union members, and others will see a marked increase.  


It should be pointed out that the period of Martial Law in Mindanao saw the introduction of a new US counter-terror operation – Pacific Eagle: Philippines. This is the first named-operation since 2002, targeting so-called terrorists in Mindanao. The US operation is open-ended, having no time frame, nor clear terms of reference, for troop deployment and the activities they can undertake. The US, on top of its direct combat involvement, will also provide funding, support and advice to their counterparts in the AFP.


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Ground zero: Marawi


The whole Marawi City was put on a lockdown as the armed battle between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Maute group had already caused more than 10 civilian casualties, several military men killed, evacuation of residents, civilians trapped and held hostage including a priest, and houses, a Catholic cathedral and a Protestant school burned to the ground.


Following the suspension of habeas corpus, the AFP set up 17,494 checkpoint operations and curfews in 129 cities. In Davao City, Mayor Sarah Duterte ordered the lockdown of the city while the military rounded up of more than 250 civilians without identification cards, mostly belonging to a certain Moro tribe. On May 25, a Moro populated area in President Roxas, North Cotabato was bombed by the military forcing several families to evacuate.


On the third day of the fighting, the military decided to conduct airstrikes aimed at rebel positions and burned houses inside the battleground to prevent the rebel groups from using them as camps. The airstrikes prompted a massive evacuation of residents, not only in the 24 barangays near the Lanao lake, but the whole Marawi City and neighboring municipalities. There were also reports of several civilians killed due to aerial bombardment.


Four days after the bombings, Muslim clerics under the National Ulama Conference of the Philippines and other humanitarian groups appealed to President Duterte to stop the airstrikes in Marawi City and solely conduct ground assaults, in the hopes of rescuing civilians trapped inside the battlezone. This prompted President Duterte to establish a “peace corridor” with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on May 30, to ensure the safety of displaced civilians, and to ensure the delivery of relief and other needs.  This was conducted on June 4 by representatives of the GRP-MILF peace panel, but was halted because of intense fighting. After several attempts, the peace corridor was able to rescue at least 270 civilians.


On May 30, instructions on how to conduct arrests under Martial Law were released by the Department of National Defense. Six days after, the second general order was released, this time with a list of 186 individuals belonging to groups behind the attack in Marawi City, namely the Abu Sayyaf, Maute group, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Maguid group and a vague category of “known as perpetrators/supporters/couriers.”  By the end of August 2017, more than 132 individuals were reported arrested in Northern Mindanao and Lanao provinces on various cases including drug possession and violation of the curfew, including the parents of the Maute brothers.

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According to the Internally Displaced People (IDP) Assessment Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the number of internally displaced due to the Marawi Crisis reached 359,680 individuals by July 22, with 94% of the IDPs staying with host families in nine (9) regions and around 21,000 individuals distributed in 78 evacuation centers.


Three weeks after the the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao, reports of human rights violations due to Martial law declaration and the continuing aerial bombardment were documented in a National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission (NIHM) that covered Marawi City and provinces of Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Davao del Sur. Violations included forcible evacuation, aerial bombardment, indiscriminate bombardment, destruction of properties, divestment of properties, violation of domicile, use of civilian facilities for military purposes, threat, harassment, intimidation, and death in evacuation centers.


Most of the IDPs interviewed in Marawi City were not convinced that an air assault was needed to suppress the Maute group. The aerial bombardment had only caused massive destruction of Marawi City. The NIHM warned of  a looming, terrible humanitarian crisis should martial law and intense bombing of communities in Mindanao continue.


This was affirmed during the second NIHM on July 2017 that documented several cases of rights violations including extrajudicial killings, disappearances, and torture of Marawi residents, who were accosted by soldiers while in the process of evacuation, and several complaints of looting, by soldiers who forced their way inside abandoned homes and took household items and other properties.


In its report about the human rights situation of Marawi City displaced residents,  Amnesty International said that the military air strikes killed non-combatants, and may have been used in excess during the five-month operations, and called for an investigation to the reported violations. Amnesty’s report belie US Defense Secretary James Mattis statement praising the Philippine military for upholding human rights in a five-month battle against pro-Islamic State group militants in Marawi City.


Among the accounts documented by fact finding missions was that of Idris Rascal, 55, and son Jalal, 25. On May 23, 2017, Idris and Jalal were on their way to evacuate their family when the two decided to rush back to their house in an attempt to salvage more belongings. Jalal’s sister, during the interview, said she saw with her own eyes how the bomb hit the house while the two were still there. Her nephew, Saypudin, 13, followed suit but the army personnel took him. Until today, Saypudin has yet to be found, and the bodies of Idris and Jalal have yet to be recovered.


On May 24, 2017, the body of Ramos Malik, 35, was found at the Banggolo bridge in Marawi. His family evacuated on May 26, 2017 from their residence in Brgy. Cameri, Marinaut, Marawi. His family learned from their neighbors that Ramos was arrested by the military, as evidenced by a footage from a local media outlet. The victim was wearing black at that time. They later received confirmation that Ramos was already dead, his body found on a bridge. The family received word from other families still inside Marawi that Ramos’ body was brought to Baloi.


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Turning Southern Philippines into a Killing Field


Since the declaration of martial law on May 23, 2017, Karapatan documented at least 46 victims of extrajudicial killings in Mindanao, with one victim killed every week. Many of the victims were indigenous peoples and members of local peasant organizations, targeted for their local campaigns for genuine agrarian reform and against militarization. Karapatan also documented 22 cases of torture, 112 victims of frustrated extrajudicial killings, 71 victims of illegal arrest and detention, 336,123 victims of indiscriminate gunfire and aerial bombings. Many more reported cases reveal a much graver magnitude of the effects of martial law. The dangers to personal security during travel prevent news gatherers and documenters from looking into the human rights situation in the region.


Evidenced by the numerous cases of political killings, illegal arrests and detention, and bombings in Mindanao during martial rule, the military seems to have let go of any pretenses when violating people’s rights.


In Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, composite elements of the 27th IBPA and the marines massacred a group of T’boli and Dulangan Manobo in Sitio Datal Bong Langon, Brgy. Ned, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato on December 3, 2017. This group of indigenous peoples was occupying the area land-grabbed by the Consunjis, and used by their corporation as a coffee plantation. The land is part of the ancestral domain of the Dulangan Manobo and T’boli. The Consunjis have long been operating in the ancestral domains of different indigenous communities in the region. Those killed were Victor Danyan, Victor Danyan Jr., Artemio Danyan, Pato Celardo, Samuel Angkoy, To Diamante, Bobot Lagase, and Mateng Bantal. Also reported wounded were Luben Laod and Teteng Laod. The victims were all members of the T’boli Manubo Sdaf Claimants Organization (TAMASCO). The incident also resulted in the forcible evacuation of 70 families.


In Talaingod, Davao del Norte, a 19-year-old student of the Salugpongan ‘Ta Tanu Igkanogon Community Center was shot by two armed members of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU). Obello Bay-ao was on his way home from his family’s farm in the afternoon of September 5, 2017, when paramilitary elements fired at and chased after him. He was rushed to the hospital by villagers, but was eventually declared dead in the evening of the same day.


In Cabadbaran, Agusan del Norte, Vivencio Sahay, 53, chairperson of the Unyon sa Mag-uuma sa Agusan del Norte (UMAN-KMP), was gunned down by suspected military agents on November 23, 2017. Sahay, accompanied by his pregnant daughter Jovy, was on his way back home from tending to their carabao at around 6am. While walking, they were blocked by a bonnet-wearing armed man. The perpetrator asked Sahay to put his hands to his head, and then shot him four times. Jovy tried approaching her father, which prompted the assailant to aim the gun at her. Jovy then tried to run as fast as she could back to their house and scrambled for help. The armed man tried to chase her but refrained from shooting; he eventually left after seeing Jovy enter the house. According to Sahay’s family, he was targeted because of his active involvement in UMAN-KMP, an organization continuously red-tagged by the military as a “legal front” of the NPA.


Torture and illegal arrests

The harassment, torture, mass arrests and illegal detention of members of local peasant and indigenous organizations escalated in Mindanao. Included among the cases documented by Karapatan is the torture of two small-scale miners whom soldiers tried to burn alive, among other atrocities.


On November 28, 2017, Janry Mensis and “Jerry”, 16, small-scale miners and members of the Kahugpungan sa mga Mag-uuma sa Maco (KAMAO) were illegally arrested and tortured by elements of the 71st IBPA in Brgy. Visayan Village, Tagum City. The perpetrators accused the two of being thieves, and brought the victims to the police station in Tagum City where they underwent interrogation. They were eventually released  by the police, but were taken again into custody by the AFP.


The soldiers brought the victims to the 71st IBPA camp in Mawab, Compostela Valley where they were heavily beaten, after which they were tied and detained in a military ambulance inside the camp for 9 days. Soldiers provided them food only for 6 days.


On December 6, 2017, at around midnight, Janry and Jerry were forced to wear military uniforms. They were boarded inside a 6×6 military truck and brought to Barangay Masara, Compostela Valley. When they arrived at the hinterland of Masara, they were hogtied and their mouths covered with packaging tape. According to the victims, around 20 military elements were present during the incident. The soldiers then proceeded to dig out a pit. The victims were brought near the pit and were strangled using a rope. Janry and Jerry acted as if they were already unconscious, and the perpetrators dragged them into the pit. The military threw pieces of wood and poured a container of crude oil into the pit which they set on fire.


Janry and Jerry were able to run and escape the fire after the military left them. Janry suffered third degree burns.  

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In the Saguiaran evacuation center, Arafat Lala, 38, evacuated from Marawi City with his family on May 24, 2017. According to an affidavit issued by his wife, Noraidah, he was arrested on July 23, 2017 by elements of the Crime Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police (PNP), based on the mere suspicion that Arafat was a terrorist. Noraidah, however, denied such allegations, claiming her husband was not an ISIS member and was even chosen as one of the leaders in the evacuation center to help systematize the distribution of relief goods. Local DSWD officials and fellow evacuees in Saguiaran attested to his identity and work in the evacuation center. In fact, hours before he was arrested, Arafat and several volunteers just came back from bringing in boxes of relief assistance from Iligan City. He was in the custody of the CIDG in Cagayan de Oro before being transferred to Taguig City Jail.


An average of six individuals are illegally arrested and put in jail every month, since martial law was imposed in Mindanao.


On February 12, 2018 elements of the 73rd IBPA illegally arrested eight individuals, all from the Kaolo tribe, in Sitio Tangis, Brgy. Datal Anggas, Alabel, Saranggani. Civilians Nonoy Sanama, Morelo Sanama, Simeon Salda, Jun Moda, Claude Palbe, Garzon Palbe, Renel Ompao, and Sabelo Colano were physically assaulted and then detained at the 73rd IBPA military camp. They were eventually surrendered to the police on February 15 with trumped-up charges of frustrated murder and illegal possession of firearms. They were later transferred to the BJMP in Baluntay, Alabel, Sarangani. The group were members of Lumad Kasbakas de Saranggani (LUMAKAS), a local indigenous organization in the area.


On June 2, 2017, over 100 fully-armed combined elements of the 66th IBPA and PNP Compostela Valley, along with guards of the Shin Sun Tropical Fruits Inc. in Compostela Valley, arrested 12 workers who were on strike. The guards of the said company sprayed the striking workers with formalin and violently dispersed the group. The soldiers forcefully crossed the picket line and demanded that the workers end their strike, adding that “This is martial law; we will not honor the labor code.”


On July 22, 2017, 11 Tigwahanons who were working under the DENR Reforestation Project, were illegally arrested by composite elements of the 68th and the 8th IBPA in Brgy. Cawayan, San Fernando, Bukidnon. According to the victims, soldiers arrived in Sitio New Tibugawan at around 8 in the morning and approached the farmers. Soldiers alleged that there were NPA members seen in the community, after which the perpetrators started accusing the farmers as NPA members and sympathizers. The 11 were then taken to the sitio hall of New Tibugawan guarded by the soldiers, while their officer-in-charge talked to the sitio leader and announced that they would be conducting search operations because “martial law” had already been put in effect.


By night time, 10 of the farmers were allowed to go home, with the exception of Junty Sedom. A case of illegal possession of explosives was lodged against Sedom the next day. He was brought to the Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center in Malaybalay, Bukidnon where he still remains detained.


On February 7, 2018, Jolita Tolino, 24, an adult literacy community teacher of CLANS Lumad Community School in Sitio Tinagdanan, Brgy. Hinalaan, Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat, was “invited” by two marines in civilian clothes and two barangay kagawad “Pilok” and “Kanoy”. She was brought to the village hall, the Marine camp, and then to the Kalamansig Police station where she was interrogated on the CLANS school curriculum. She was transferred to Isulan Jail the next day without being told what the charges were against her. Only later was she informed of murder charges filed against her by individuals unknown and unnamed.

According to Barug Katungod Mindanao, at least 404 human rights defenders, indigenous peoples, peasants, and environmental activists have been charged with trumped-up criminal offenses.


Forced evacuations, aerial bombings and community occupation

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More than previous post-Marcos presidencies, the Duterte regime has displaced the highest number of people in Duterte’s nearly two years in office. Nearly half a million, or 402,605 persons, have been forced to flee their communities due to military combat operations, and long-term militarization and occupation of rural communities by combat troops. The biggest of the displaced are the residents of Marawi City and nearby communities.


In Marawi City, Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte alone, there are at least 385,117 individuals who forcibly evacuated due to seemingly incessant bombings by the AFP, leaving thousands of residents homeless and penniless, as their properties and cash were destroyed or looted.


In Sitio Tangis, Solutan and Dalid in Alabel, Sarangani, military choppers of the 73rd IBPA who had been encamping in residents’ homes since February 3, 2017, dropped a total of six bombs in a clearing operation on February 11. This forced 120 households to evacuate the area.


On June 2, 2017, some 1, 248 families from Shariff Aguak and Datu Saudi Ampatuan were forced to evacuate when the 57th IBPA and the 2nd Mechanized Reconnaissance Battalion conducted aerial bombardment in their communities.


In July 2, 2017, six bombs were dropped in Purok 4, Sitio Tagbawi, Barangay Rizal, Monkayo, Compostela Valley. The aerial strikes occurred in response to an encounter between the 25th IBPA and the NPA on July 1. The combined aerial and ground military operations resulted to numerous violations,including the burning of nine houses perpetrated by government troops.


Karapatan has recorded at least 4,399 victims of threats, harassment and intimidation by State security forces, which includes members of fact finding and solidarity missions who conducted independent investigations on the report of rights violations, during the one year of the implementation of martial law, causing fear among community residents and further stoking impunity in Mindanao.


Forced or Fake Surrenders


As of end of March 2018, Karapatan has documented 661 victims of forced or fake surrenders, majority of them in Mindanao. This specific violation not only targets individuals, but also entire organizations and communities. It is meant to create an illusion that the government’s counterinsurgency program is succeeding, and the martial law declaration is an appropriate means to such end.


At least 500 residents of Lupiagan and Licoan, Sumilao, Bukidnon were gathered by soldiers of the 1st Special Forces Battalion in their camp in Brgy. Mampayad, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon on January 28, 2018. The soldiers announced that a half kilo of rice and 500 pesos will be distributed to each of the residents. Upon arrival at the detachment, the residents were fed, asked to sign an attendance sheet, and had their pictures taken. Days later, the residents heard from the local radio that their names were included in the military’s report of NPA surrenderees.


Also on March 5, 2018, 15 members of the Tribal Indigenous Oppressed Group Association (TINDOGA) were called, along with other members of the community, to the house of Datu Santiano Abdahan Jr. The meeting was attended by six soldiers of the 8th IBPA and 22 unnamed members of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU). The residents were invited “to surrender”, lest they get a criminal case lodged against them. Those who would “surrender” would be trained as new paramilitary members and would be enrolled in a livelihood project.


At least 428 cases of forced or fake surrenders were reported in the Southern Mindanao region, in the recent fact finding mission led by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) in April 2018. These cases usually involve groups of residents being gathered together and simultaneously forced to surrender; using local government officials to spread misinformation on “wanted persons” or inclusion of names of activists in communities in a so-called Order of Battle list; singling out family members of known leaders in peasant communities for interrogation; or requiring residents to go to military camps to “clear” their names. The mission was able to document 10 victims of forced surrender in Brgy. Katipunan, Kidapawan City; 18 victims in Brgy. Manggayon, Compostela Valley; and at least 400 victims in Puting Bato, Brgy. Ngan, Compostela Valley.


Soldiers threatened to withhold social services such as the Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program (4Ps) if residents refuse to sign documents indicating they are surrenderees. They use death threats, shoot-to-kill orders, and threats of arrests, coerce residents to sign documents that are either blank or has content written in English that are not explained to the victims.


On February 28, 2018, residents and members of the Compostela Farmers Association in Brgy. Manggayon, Compostela, Compostela Valley were forced “to surrender” by elements of the 66th IBPA. The soldiers announced that the CFA members’ enrollment in the Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program (4Ps) would be cancelled if they did not sign a document. The names of the farmers were later announced on the radio as surrenderees.  


In Caraga, soldiers go to homes of peasant leaders, members of organizations and their relatives to intimidate them into “surrendering.” According to the peasants, the soldiers offer them firearms which they should bring when they surrender and promise them PhP5,000.00 as livelihood assistance.


Those who refused to be coerced were subjected to trumped-up criminal charges. Many face charges for illegal possession of firearms and explosives, with the soldiers working in cahoots with State prosecutors to justify the baseless searches, arrests and detention of peasants and to plant evidence against them.


In once case, prosecutors provided a lawyer from the Public Attorney’s Office and asked money ranging from PhP150,000 to PhP400,000 from the arrested peasant in exchange for his release. Apart from the psywar objective of making the government counter-insurgency campaign appear effective, the fake surrenderee program is a big money-making scheme for corrupt officials.


Paramilitary elements, some of whom have outstanding warrants, were also paraded as surrenderees. Karapatan received reliable information that among those included in the so-called surrenderees are members of the paramilitary Magahat-Bagani force involved in the infamous Lianga massacre.


Marawi Rehabilitation: Turning grief into profit


On March 30, displaced Meranao residents of the 24 barangays identified as mostly affected areas (MAA) in Marawi City held a march protest calling for a permanent return to their communities considered by the military asl off limits to civilians.


The protest criticized the government’s rehabilitation plan which excluded them and reserved 250 hectares for the construction of a military base and an economic zone. They called their protest Kambalingan (to permanently return), as opposed to the government-sponsored Kambisita (to visit).   It called on residents to reclaim and rebuild their community, with or without government support.


The group appealed to President Duterte to allow the Meranaw residents to  lead the building of Marawi City to preserve their cultural identity. They criticized the blueprint presented to the public on March 21-22 during the Multi-Sectoral Consultation on Marawi Rehabilitation at the provincial capitol.


The fighting in Marawi left the city in ruins with 95% of the structures within the 4 square kilometres of the main battle area heavily damaged and collapsed, 3,152 buildings completely destroyed and 2,145 buildings partially to heavily damaged due bombings. About 12,000 families, or around 60,000 individuals, used to live in what was the main battle area.

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Plans for Marawi’s rehabilitation started since with the creation of Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM), a government inter-agency task force group organized to facilitate the rehabilitation, recovery and reconstruction efforts in Marawi, through President Duterte’s Administrative Order no. 3 dated June 28, 2017. Martial Law administrator Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana Jr. was tasked to head the taskforce with 23 members from different agencies including the AFP, DSWD, NEDA and others.


TFBM was tasked to create a “Bangon Marawi Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Program,” and was mandated to supervise the construction of temporary and permanent shelters for displaced persons, “immediate restoration” of water and electricity and the repair or reconstruction of “public buildings and infrastructure.” Initially, President Duterte ordered P20 billion be set aside for the rehabilitation program.


Lorenzana announced last year that foreign aid had already reached P2.1 billion from Australia, Japan, Thailand, the European Union, US and China. World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) were the lead lending agencies that will fund the rehabilitation of Marawi City and provide the technical advice and expertise for reconstruction.


After the “liberation” of Marawi City, President Duterte designated retired military general and now HUDCC (Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council) chair Eduardo del Rosario as head of the TFBM through Administrative Order No. 9, which the Chief Executive signed on October 27, 2017.


Private investors were also tapped to invest in the government’s rehabilitation of Marawi City. Maynilad Water and Manila Water will invest in the city’s water system. The Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) chair Manuel V. Pangilinan and MPIC executives will invest in the power and water system. The Ayala Foundation will build a hospital. Other groups being eyed for the rehabilitation include Udenna Corp, Aboitiz Group, Jollibee Foods Corp, Pepsi Cola Philippines, FF Cruz, Meralco, Coca Cola, Cebuana Lhuillier, San Miguel Foundation as well as donors such as World Vision, Oxfam, SM Foundation and LBC Foundation.

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Last December 2017, the Department of Finance (DOF) announced that they have plans of turning the Islamic City of Marawi into a “community-based economic zone” envisioned to be a center for marketing, technical training, and food processing ventures for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).


On January 30 this year, President Duterte announced that a 10-hectare regiment-size military camp worth P400 million will be built inside the MAA. Marawi City already has a military camp near the provincial capitol where the 103rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army is stationed as well as an unknown number of US soldiers.


In March 2018  The Bangon Marawi Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Program (BMCRRP) blueprint that National Development Authority (NEDA) presented to the public included livelihood, business deployment and land resource management as among the key priority programs and another 860 projects for livelihood and business sectors will be implemented from 2018 to 2022. According to TFBM, based on the post-conflict needs assessment, damage was assessed amounting to more than P11 billion; losses that amounted to more than P6 billion; and needs that amounted to more than P51 billion after 148 days of fighting.


The sell-out and plunder of Mindanao under Duterte


Martial Law has an economic basis: the protection of elite economic, foreign and local, interests.  The motive force that drives the Duterte regime to impose Martial Law on Mindanao is the same interest being pushed in the Marawi rehabilitation.


When one considers how Mindanao is also the location of large-scale foreign plantations, mining companies, energy projects, and a persistent target of US military exercises; it becomes apparent that Martial Law is merely part of a bigger project for the region.


Mindanao hosts the country’s last remaining frontiers. It has a large agricultural base, and remains a significant food basket. More than six million of its more than 10 million hectares of land are classified as forest lands. Its greatly varied geography composed of high and rugged mountains, broad and swampy plains, and rolling plateaus, host fertile soils, rich deposits of minerals, and diverse biospheres.


Under Duterte’s Build, Build, Build! infrastructure program, such natural wealth will be sold to foreign and local business interests. The first Mindanawon president has pushed for a grand “development” plan, estimated to cost at least Php 1.25 trillion, for the whole island under the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA). The entire plan is composed mainly of mega-infrastructure projects and agri-business programs, backed by deceptive sociocultural schemes – all for the purpose of facilitating the entry and flow of foreign capital in the entire region. The plan divides the region into Northern, Western and South Central Mindanao, forming interconnected “development corridors” that will be connected internationally to a subregional trade network (between Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines) and further on, to the global market.


Most touted by the president himself is the TransMindanao High-Speed Railway Project, which would supposedly connect key cities across the island through a 2,000-kilometer rail system. Just its first phase already costs Php 36 billion of public funds and foreign loans from China, Japan, and Korea. A transportation undersecretary has revealed that the succeeding phases will be funded solely by China. Not just in Mindanao, Chinese capital is “an important ingredient” of the nationwide Build! Build! Build! program itself. The Duterte regime drools over these loans even as various countries (from Cambodia to Sri Lanka to South Africa to Argentina) have already fallen victim to China’s debt trap and are compelled to give up control of parts of their territory and resources.


While China’s increasing role is undeniable, the decades-old dominance of foreign loans from USAID, IMF-WB, ADB, and JICA remain. They are contained in MinDA’s other flagship “catalytic” infrastructure projects which include at least seven airports and four seaports, each costing from a few to tens of billions in pesos. Mindanao maintains its huge geopolitical significance for US military and economic interests; as it is located near major international shipping routes and an ideal launching pad for military actions against US traditional adversaries mainly China and North Korea.


The projects will also be awarded to local big businesses thru hybrid public-private partnerships. Hybrid PPPs use public funds and foreign loans to build an infrastructure before handing over its operation and maintenance to the private sector, burdening the people with debt-servicing, the private operator’s profit-guarantees, and high user fees. Certain to profit are the biggest local oligarchs already benefiting from previous PPPs, such as San Miguel, Metro Pacific, Ayala Corp. and SM Holdings.

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Aside from profiting from the actual construction, the infra projects themselves will only serve the interests of foreign and local big business by easing the transportation of commodities and capital.  Meanwhile, the construction of these projects will displace thousands of farmers, indigenous peoples, and urban poor.


Another key aspect  of the development plan is the creation of so-called “Agro-Economic Cooperative Zones” (AECZ). Its most pronounced aim is to “modernize” agriculture by establishing “agro-fishery infrastructure and agro-based enterprises.” It aims to further boost the production of for-export crops such as rubber, pineapple, Cavendish banana, oil palm, cacao, and sugarcane – as opposed to food crops needed domestically. MinDA targets to build these zones over the ancestral lands of indigenous peoples and lands awarded to agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs). This explains the obsessive targeting of Lumad communities and ARB organizations by the military.


Indicatively, agribusiness plantations have been aggressively expanding in Mindanao. Such plantations cover about 500,000 hectares, or 12 percent of Mindanao’s total agricultural lands. Another million hectares are targeted for oil palm plantations by 2022.


AECZs will only facilitate landgrabbing of millions of hectares of farmlands and ancestral lands, leading to the further displacement and deprivation of millions of farmers and indigenous peoples across Mindanao. On the other hand, long-time landowning political dynasties (such as the Floirendos, Lorenzos, Lobregats, and Dimaporos), in collaboration with multinational agro-corporations, are once again the ones expected to profit form these schemes.


The same families are also in cahoots with foreign mining interests from China, US, Canada, and Australia. Destructive large-scale mining operations cover huge parts of Mindanao, destroying whole ecosystems. Most notably, 23 of the country’s 48 largest operating mines are all in Caraga, covering 5% of the region’s total land area.


MinDA’s development plan includes a sociocultural aspect, an attempt to justify and legitimize the anti-peasant and anti-people programs. Academic institutions such as the planned Mindanao Executive Leadership Development Academy and Mindanao Marine Merchant Naval Academy will be established to train pro-big business bureaucrats, policy makers, researchers, and other intellectuals. The agency also declares its commitment to environmental-protection by supposedly implementing “responsible” mining, using renewable energy, and promoting eco-tourism. Meanwhile Moro culture is tapped by professing the promotion of “Islamic financing” and the development of the Halal industry.


All these grand proclamations however crumble at the reality of the Duterte regime’s attacks against peasants and indigenous people. Lumad-built and managed schools (where indigenous knowledge and practices are being developed), instead of being supported, are threatened to be bombed while their school staff and community leaders are killed, abducted, and harassed. Similarly, the most direct stewards of forests and mountains, the poor peasants and indigenous people, face bullets, cannons, forced “surrender” campaigns, trumped-up charges, etc. The Moro too are victimized under the Islamophobic “war on terror” designed by the US, leaving the country’s only Islamic City in rubble.


Resistance to Martial Law, achieving a just peace


Far from paving the way for peace, these projects and programs are bound to aggravate rural unrest in Mindanao – especially with the AFP serving as mercenary forces to secure these investments through acts of state terror. Struggles for the right to land by peasants, and self-determination by Lumad and Bangsamoro peoples are expected to intensify. We continue to call for the immediate lifting of Martial Law and and end to state terror and militarization, especially in the countryside.


The most intense of such resistance to economic and environmental plunder are expressed through the revolutionary movements led by the CPP/NPA/NDF and the remaining armed movements of the Moro people through BIFF and fighting BIAF forces.


There also exists a militant mass movement of Moro people, Lumad, peasants and workers opposing Martial Law. A most significant development is the movement of Meranaos asserting their right to return to Marawi and rebuild their communities, while opposing the disaster capitalism framework of the Duterte regime. They have launched several mass actions and marches in Marawi to air their demands.


The Mindanao peasant and Lumad movements have also been launched in the heart of the national capital and Malacanang on several occasions to call attention and demand action on agrarian and human rights issues as seen in the numerous Lakbayans launched since 2015.


The key to a just and lasting peace in Mindanao is addressing the roots of the armed conflict, which includes demands for socio-economic reforms, social justice and genuine self-determination. These can be achieved through the collective struggle of the people and in venues such as peace negotiations. Martial Law, militarization and state terror are not the answer to unrest in the island. If anything, these attacks will surely generate more resistance to the Duterte regime.  ###

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