The Marawi Crisis started on 23 May 2017 when the Philippine government security forces and the Maute Group — who were joined by the Abu Sayyaf groups, and claimed themselves to be part of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) — got engaged in a bloody armed clash.
The skirmishes began when elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) launched an operation in Marawi City to serve a warrant of arrest against Isnilon T. Hapilon. Hapilon is a leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group who was in Marawi City to join forces with the Maute Group. The Maute Group had pledged allegiance to ISIS and are believed to be responsible for the 2016 Davao City bombing, according to AFP and PNP reports.
At around 11:20 PM, President Rodrigo Duterte declared Martial Law all over Mindanao from Moscow, where the Russian government was hosting him with several of his government officials. Maute group militants attacked Camp Ranao and occupied several buildings in the city, including a hospital and the city jail. The group also attacked the Marawi Cathedral, taking a priest and several church-goers as hostages.
On 26 May 2017, the AFP stated that some of the terrorists were foreigners who have been in the country for quite some time, offering support to the Maute group in Marawi.
By 01 June, MindaNews reported that “a total of 140,155 residents, representing nearly 70% of this city’s total population, have fled to neighboring towns and cities since the clashes between government forces and the Maute Group began.” On 02 June, the death toll in this violent crisis has reached 175. The casualties among government troops reached 11.
Most government agencies and civil society groups responded promptly to the needs of internally displaced persons (IDPs) with relief goods and emergency services.
RESPONSES OF PAR COMMUNITIES IN MINDANAO
For the past two years, we have trained 288 volunteer Peace and Reconciliation Monitors among the students of various universities in Mindanao, including Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi City.
Peace and Reconciliation Monitors are local volunteers from various communities (Christian, Muslim, Lumad) who have been trained in the following areas: Armed Conflict Area Survival Training, Fact-Finding Missions, Conflict Transformation, Disaster Preparedness, Trauma Healing, Inter-Faith Dialogue, and Cross-Cultural Communications. We also have mentored 12 PAR student leaders from among these PAR Monitors. Most of them helped in the evacuation operations during the first few days of the armed conflict and are now safe back in their respective homes throughout Mindanao. We, at PBCI, are saddened by the fact that the university education of these PAR Monitors are jeopardized because of the destruction, and perhaps closure, of MSU. But one of their leaders said this might be a sort of “missional dispersion” of PAR advocates throughout Mindanao and the Philippines. She reminded us of the general mission of PAR Teams:
- to promote peace and reconciliation in our land by giving skilled, courageous support to communities experiencing various conflicts;
- to inspire various parties-in-conflict to discard violence in favor of nonviolent action as a means of settling differences;
- to provide various communities with first-hand information and resources for responding to situations of conflict, and to urge their active involvement;
- to interpret a nonviolent perspective to the media and to our nation as a whole.
The Iligan PAR Team, some of whom were trained during the aftermath of Typhoon Sendong (2011 Tropical Storm Washi), along with the church-based PAR Team leaders in the provinces surrounding Marawi, are coordinating a currently-operating, church-based relief and medical operations in, and around, Iligan City. Meanwhile, the Bukidnon PAR Team, under the leadership of Clay and June Rojo, are collaborating with a province-wide resource- and volunteer-mobilization for a relief operation in Marawi. In the next two weeks, the Rojos and the Bukidnon PAR Community will be conducting PAR training among 65 volunteers from various civil society, government, and religious organizations who will be sent for this big relief operations.
PERCEIVED LONG-TERM ROLE OF PBCI BASED ON OUR CALLING AND GIFTEDNESS
PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI) is a fellowship of Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) missionary-consultants — peace building operatives, conflict transformation specialists, restorative justice practitioners, disaster response specialists, and community development workers — who are dreaming and working together for a just, radical, and active non-violent transformation of our beautiful land. We normally work in partnership with religious institutions, civil society organizations, political fronts, business corporations, and government agencies.
Based on our 10-year experience in the field as PAR missionaries, PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. would maximize our limited gifts and scarce resources if we will focus our efforts towards a post-battle situation when the people of Marawi would:
1. be assisted as they return to their destroyed neighborhood;
2. seek approaches to a dignified rehabilitation;
3. face the challenge of inter-faith dialogue and reflection;
4. present alternative approaches for livelihood; and,
5. be facilitated towards restorative justice processes.
The long-term action path we are taking are: rescue, relief, rehabilitation, restitution, reconstruction, reconciliation, and rest.
Our strategic framework in dealing with the Marawi Crisis and the issue of Martial Law in Mindanao is in collaboration with the Mindanao PeaceWeavers — a wider network of civil society organizations who are involved in peace and justice advocacy. Here is our collective voice:
STATEMENT OF MINDANAO PEACEWEAVERS
31 May 2017
Stand with Marawi. Save the Peace Process. Defend our Rights.
Marawi, the “Philippine’s premiere Islamic City” is battered but stands strong.
True to the origins of the name Marawi, it is indeed a “destination point” or “rendezvous”, for much of Mindanao’s Islamic south. The name has also meant “arrival” or “coming” – but these last few days, Marawi’s monicker has had a devastating connotation. The city that has served as a melting pot of peoples from different cultures and histories is now getting razed by bombs and fire into a virtual “ghost town.” The city is occupied by Maute extremist militants on a rampage, sowing terror in different parts of the city – threatening, hurting and even killing innocent civilians, burning buildings and properties, hostaging helpless people and turning them into “human shields” as their forces scamper through the city’s interiors. The armed hostilities prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in the whole of Mindanao to address the crisis situation and specifically wipe out the Aby Sayaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and the remaining Maute militants involved.
We, the convening networks and allied peace partners of the Mindanao PeaceWeavers (MPW), condemn in the strongest terms the terror that is besieging Marawi City. We are deeply saddened that this tragedy occurred during the Holy Month of Ramadhan, a period of spiritual reflection for Muslims. But for the people of Marawi, it is currently a disquieting time when danger, violence, and death are at their doorsteps.
We appeal to the heart and conscience of President Duterte to see the face of humanitarian crisis.
Aside from ensuring the safety and security of civilians in the conduct of clearing operations by the government forces, we invoke the state’s responsibility to protect and fulfill the rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs) during evacua-tion until their safe and dignified return to Marawi City. In hindsight, we believe that a combination of keen foresight and leadership coupled with political will and military intelligence, the government can address the crisis situation in Marawi without resorting to a declaration of Martial Law.
The prolonged armed engagement between the government security forces and the Maute militants have led to the excessive use of artillery and aerial bombardment, endangering the lives of trapped civilians and violating the rules of engagement in situations of war and armed conflict. Worse, the botched AFP-PNP operation to arrest the ASG leader failed to assess the risks and options impacting on non-combatants; public safety has now been jeopardized when the scenario of pre-emptive and forced evacuation was not prioritized by the government troops just before the conflict flared-up.
We are disheartened with the extent of civilian casualties – most of whom are women and children – caught in the crossfire while fleeing to safer grounds. The government says that as of today, a total of 92 casualties have been recorded – 16 civilians, 15 government forces, and 61 Maute militants. According to a report, only 5% of the total city population of 200,000, remain trapped inside the city.
The Marawi crisis is considered the tipping point of the Martial Law declaration. But we pray that martial rule won’t be the last straw before we lose the gains in the peace processes through the years. Despite the safeguards that are already embodied in the 1987 Constitution, we still dread the thought of Martial Law turning draconian in the days and weeks to come. Because, as a country, we committed to listen to the wisdom of history – “Never Again” – was our collective mantra in the aftermath of the Marcos dictatorship. Yet now in a seeming instance, Martial Law is upon us again.
We are seriously alarmed with the declaration of the 60-day Martial Law in the whole of Mindanao. Appalled by the sudden turn of events, we, as advocates of civil liberties remain wary of the factual basis and intention of this proclamation. President Duterte’s brinkmanship in the standoff with Maute militants launched a full-scale combat operation at the heart of a bustling civilian community. A military solution will not address the key drivers of armed conflict, radicalization and violent extremism in the country. Developing sustainable solutions towards durable peace can be derived from the heart of an inclusive political settlement, good governance and multiculturalism. That is why as civil society, we continue to feed the civilian policy lens on matters of peace and security. To sustain this impetus under these trying circumstances, we are respectfully submitting the following recommendations for consideration and immediate action.
OUR URGENT APPEALS:
For President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr, DND Sec Delfin Lorenzana, AFP Chief Gen. Eduardo Ano, ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman, Western Mindanao Command Chief MGen Carlito Galvez Jr, DSWD Sec Judy Taguiwalo, Peace Negotiators in the Bangsamoro peace process and the GRP-NDFP peace process, BTC Chair Ghadzali Jaafar, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel, Jr, Speaker of the House Pantaleon Alvarez, Peace and Order Councils of ARMM, Lanao del Sur and Norte, Reg 10, 11 and Reg 12, and humanitarian groups :
- Support the appeal towards a “humanitarian passage”– a half-day “cease and desist from all forms of armed action” and invoke universally-accepted protocols on displacement and civilian protection accorded to IDPs and at the same time with deference to the observance of the Holy Month of Ramadhan.
- Provision of humanitarian corridor/s within Marawi City or adjacent towns where IDPs have sought/can seek refuge, to ensure their safe passage, safety, security and unhampered access to humanitarian aid in these buffer zones.
- For the security actors, in concert with the Marawi city government and trusted local mediators to address the hostage situation and secure the safety of Fr Teresito Suganob, his staff, parishioners and any other residents who are still being held captive by the Maute militants.
- Mobilize broad support for prompt and adequate humanitarian assistance in coordination with the ARMM-HEART and the local multi-stakeholder convergence on emergency support and crisis response in the cities of Marawi, Iligan and Cagayan de Oro.
- Immediately stop the airstrikes, indiscriminate firing and artillery shelling directed at civilian dwellings and public structures wherein trapped IDPs are seeking sanctuary. Forcing them out with the razing of these structures effectively puts them further at risk and in harm’s way.
- We appeal to President Duterte to continue upholding the primacy of the peace process. Corollary to this, we are respectfully requesting that the declaration of Martial Law be rescinded. While the military action in Marawi and adjacent towns continues, we hope this will not affect the momentum and continuance of both the Bangsamoro and the GRP-NDFP peace tables and the unimpeded implementation of all signed interim and final peace agreements;
- We urge both the government forces and the New Peoples Army (NPA) to withdraw/reposition their troops and discontinue any armed offensives especially in remote villages and ancestral domains of IPs. Sporadic attacks, harassments and militarization further contribute to an explosive situation in the midst of a Martial Law imposition;
- Lastly, we call on all citizens to remain vigilant, defend your rights, organize and engage our communities to actively monitor the situation on the ground, and help contribute in conflict mitigation and de-escalation.
Finally, as the President himself recognized and admitted in the past, no military solution can ever resolve the deep socio-economic and political problems that have blighted our land and bred terror and extremism that we are confronting today. What is needed is recognition of the legitimate grievances, historical injustices and ongoing justice issues perpetrated on our peoples and addressing the root causes of armed conflict through structural change.
Stand our ground in engaging the peace process!
Resolutely defend our fundamental rights and freedoms!