Even as ISIS have conquered the Philippine city of Marawi, some of President Rodrigo Duterte’s opponents want to play politics during an unambiguous time of war.
President Duterte has put the southern Philippine island of Mindanao under martial law for 60 days according to existing provisions of the Constitution with an option to extend martial law should the war against ISIS intensify. Contrary to false reports in the western media, Duterte has not put the entire country under martial law.
ISIS is well known to be the most dangerous terrorist organisation in the world, one whose wars of aggression have caused years of destruction in Syria, Iraq and Libya and whose terrorist fighters have committed unspeakable atrocities in Egypt, Britain, France, Russia, France, Germany, Belgium, Nigeria, The Netherlands and now in Philippines.
Although Philippines had long dealt with a southern Islamic insurgency, it has only been recently that the insurgents have united under the ISIS flag. Such a situation dictates the necessity of martial law. ISIS has declared a war on Philippines and anything less than martial law would be a failure to acknowledge a full willingness to wage war until victory over the barbaric terrorist gang.
Yet this reality has not sunk in among some. Opposition Senator Antonio ‘Sunny’ Trillanes has said,
“Duterte’s erratic behavior is dangerous because a president has enormous powers. So imagine we give the powers of martial law to an unstable individual like Duterte, our country will be in jeopardy.
He’s conditioning the minds of Filipinos that martial law is OK – no, that’s an extreme option”.
This statement is naive on several levels. First of all, the reason that President Duterte has reserved the option to put the entire country under martial law is because it is difficult to predict the size of the ISIS insurgency. Wherever ISIS brings the war, Philippines must bring the fight directly back to ISIS and this would under most circumstances dictate a total war footing; it would dictate the necessity martial law.
Even Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno has said,
“When properly implemented, this (martial law declaration) should not by itself unduly burden our country”.
Duterte has explained that during a time of war, the men fighting the battle should not be restrained by the nominal burdens of peace time.
President Duterte explained the emergency nature of the situation, saying,
“Until the police and the armed forces say the Philippines is safe, this martial law will continue. I will not listen to others. The Supreme Court, congress, they are not here.
He further stated,
“Are they the ones dying and losing blood, bleeding, haemorrhaging because there is no help, no reinforcement? It’s not them”.
Duterte’s opposition must grasp that the very survival of the country is at stake. Philippines has a chance to break the terrorists by hitting them hard before they’re able to recruit new fighters and receive aid from terrorist sponsoring states abroad.
It is imperative that Duterte’s war effort is allowed to progress without hindrance. The alternative is not another democratic leader of a different political persuasion, the alternative is rule by the so-called Islamic State. Duterte’s opponents are playing opportunistic peacetime politics during a time of war. Such a frivolous attitude will endanger the lives of innocent civilians caught not between Duterte and his shameless opponents, but between the chasm of life and death.