MANILA - A military approach to the problem of terrorism in Mindanao will not be enough and should be supported by a social reform program for affected communities, a Muslim scholar said.
“A declaration of martial law is just a declaration, unless and until it comes within what I call a comprehensive social reform program," said Professor Julkipli Wadi, former dean of University of the Philippines’ Institute of Islamic Studies, in an interview with DZMM.
Former President Ferdinand Marcos already tried a hard-line tactic during his martial law regime but failed, noting that the Moro separatists as well as Communist rebels who fought the dictatorship are still around.
"Nandyan pa yung mga lider nung dahilan kung bakit nagdeklara ng martial law ang Marcos government: communism and insurgency tsaka Moro. They are still at the helm of their own groups and their own movements even after 45 years," he said.
Peace talks with Communist rebels are still ongoing and a final end to Moro separatism is still being worked out by the new administration.
Wadi said there should be a total approach to rebellion. “Dapat nakaangkla [ang martial law] sa isang holistic, comprehensive, sustainable social reform agenda."
Duterte placed the entire Mindanao region under martial law on Tuesday, following a siege by the Maute group in Marawi City.
Wadi said martial law would not affect the Maute group and other rebels since they already operate outside of the law.
“Ang martial law, wala naming epekto yan sa ISIS o sa mga radical groups. In the first place, armado sila at hindi na nila kinikilala ang kanilang karapatan at alam nila na kalaban nila ang gobyerno,” he said.
“Sinong tatamaan sa deklarasyon? ‘Yung mga ordinaryong sibilyan na baka mapaghinalaan na konektado directly or indirectly with any radical groups.”
Wadi also believes that President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law gave the Maute group the international attention that it has been longing for.
“Now, dahil nga sa declaration ng martial law, [nakuha nila] ’yung matagal nang hinahanap na atensyon at recognition ng Maute, hindi lang galing sa gobyerno ng Pilipinas pero pati na rin sa international community,” Wadi said.
“’Yung declaration ng martial law…tinitignan ng Maute na parang badge of honor nila. Parang success to achievement nila.”
According to Wadi, other countries dealt with ISIS-linked groups either by direct confrontation or “discreetly” so the groups would not gain international recognition.
DUTERTE OPEN TO TALKS WITH FIGHTERS
On Friday, President Duterte appealed to Islamist militants to abandon hostilities and start dialogue in an effort to end their bloody occupation of Marawi City.
Duterte said the presence of foreign fighters in street battles that have raged since Tuesday in Marawi City was proof that ISIS had gained a foothold on the restive island of Mindanao, but there was still a chance for peace.
"You can say that the ISIS is here already," Duterte told soldiers in nearby Iligan City, referring to Islamic State.
"My message mainly to the terrorists on the other side is we can still solve this through dialogue. And if you cannot be convinced to stop fighting, so be it. Let's just fight."
Special forces commandoes were deployed to drive out the remaining 20 to 30 Maute group rebels holed-up in Marawi but encountered heavy resistance on Friday. The army said 11 soldiers and 31 militants have been killed.
Fighting erupted on Tuesday after a bungled raid by security forces on a Maute hideout, which spiralled into chaos, with gunmen seizing bridges, roads and buildings and taking Christians hostage. -- with a Reuters report