These days, it seems you cannot raise your opinions without being brandished as being pro- or anti-government. So to write this article, I have to make a few disclaimers.
First is that I am in no way allied to any Filipino political party. But if you had to ask, I voted for Duterte and Leni last elections. Since then, I have hinged myself to a far corner of Filipino politics, bordering on apathetic, though mostly apolitical. I have never written anything remotely political on my Facebook wall by choice since I firmly believe that individualized and non-publicized actions do the most work out of positive change. Plus, the toxicity level is running high at the time…
Second is that my opinions are unfortunately coming from someone miles away from the epicenter that is Mindanao. Alas, I am born and raised in Luzon and have never stepped foot in the Southernmost Philippine island. So if there are contexts I am unable to digest or understand, it is largely due to this fact.
With those out of the picture, I daresay that I am against Martial Law in Mindanao.
This is not because, unlike how others might have stereotyped millennials or UP graduates, I am against Martial Law absolutely. I believe there are situations that warrant such declarations if it proved to be strategic for the greater good of the country. But I believe this is not a situation to declare Martial Law.
Why? Publicized declarations usually mean nothing — especially if they are made when emotions are high. It usually is overpromising and under-delivering. By itself, it does not create results.
I believe that the sudden declaration of Martial Law was a knee-jerk reaction to create an illusion that everything is or will be under control thru brute force. Perhaps it is the benevolent intention of reassuring Filipinos that the President himself will be making sure that the terrorists will be terminated. If that was the case, I applaud Duterte, but I still disagree with the choice.
We should not forget that the terrorist group has not left Marawi City yet. The city is under siege, and many innocent lives are still at the mercy of the Maute Group. The timing of declaring Martial Law may not be strategic. It may inspire fear and terror in the hearts of the terrorists, which may feel good for us, but rationally, they may also respond in ways of a wild animal when cornered — unpredictable and massively destructive. Not surprisingly, the Maute Group threatened to kill hostages if not granted safe passage out of Marawi City.
An illustration is this: When you receive a phone call that a thief has your mother and is pointing a gun at her head at the moment, you restrain yourself from hurling threats at the predator. It feels good to tell the thief that you have called the police and they are coming to rescue your mother, but the reality is that, if you care about your mother, you know you do not have the advantage in the situation.
The more rational approach is to negotiate with the predator. Beg if you must! But do the secret work of calling the police or whatever full force you can muster to take him down.
The key takeaway I have here in expressing my opinion is this: Going public is not the best response to situations. The President does have a role in reassuring his people that everything will be all right. But this should not be made at the expense of the vulnerable hostages whose lives are more at risk than ever since the declaration.
We must keep in mind that sometimes the best responses in the game of war is not a verbal threat, but a surprise attack. One that will create an illusion of winning on the side of the enemy, but will later catch them off guard and defeated. Delaying response does not feel good — but it can save lives.