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Vacation 2017: Martial Law observations

I arrived in Manila on 19 May 2017 for an annual vacation. My flight to Mindanao was on 22 May 2017. The following night, I was in the wake of my uncle who passed away. He was a retired member of the Philippine Army. That night of 23 May 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire islands of Mindanao under Martial Law [ABS-CBN].

So, I was in Mindanao during the declaration of Martial Law and I have observations regarding its implementation limited to the area in Mindanao where I was able to move around during my vacation.

The difference between the Marcos and Duterte Martial Law

I was very young then when the Marcos Martial Law was lifted. But I can tell the difference based on the situation during the 1970s and 2017. I felt that the civilians during the Marcos Martial Law were dubious, suspecting and fearful to the military because of abuses. Military, on the other hand, had high suspicion on civilians crossing checkpoints. This was because of the presence of NPA — the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines. The communist ideology gained traction in the country at that time and around the world.

There were instances of military checkpoints and police station raided by NPA pretending to be civilians. That’s why civilians were afraid to cross checkpoints. Civilians think that they might be mistaken by the military as members of NPA and that they could be subject to more scrutiny and worse – torture.

Whereas the Mindanao Martial Law now — civilians were very confident to the military and felt secured by their presence at checkpoints. The cause of the declaration of martial law was because of the Maute (a local terrorist group that pledges allegiance to the ISIS) rebellion seizing Marawi City. This group is a common enemy of the civilians and military.

So, I felt personally secured thinking that no Maute members can escape from Marawi City and go to our locality (Baroy and Tubod Lanao del Norte) to spread terror because of the presence of military checkpoints, patrols, and curfew in our place. Hence I supported President Duterte’s declaration and I noticed also that the people in out place have full support too.

Curfews makes our place so peaceful

Curfew from 8:00 PM to 5:00 AM was imposed in my place. The citizens in our place were very obedient and if they have important matters to attend to, they bring ID with them. Later on, the business community asked adjustment to curfew duration and asked curfew to begin at 10:00 PM. It was being agreed upon, but the civilians were already used to the 8:00 PM timing. They still obeyed the old timing and the vendors were following too as no one buys their products after 8:00 PM.

I asked a balot vendor at what time he used to start selling balot before the martial law.

“I go out at 6:00 PM and start selling, and I stayed until late 11:00 PM. Sometimes a little bit earlier when all my balot is sold,” the balot vendor said.

“Since there’s martial law, what are your adjustments?” I asked him. “Well, I begin selling at 4:00 PM and go home before 8:00 PM. It had little effect on my sales but I do understand because I felt safe and of course I can go home early to my family,” added the balot vendor.

Heightened security checks at Ozamiz City port

Going to Ozamiz City via ro-ro boat from Mukas was quiet convenient before the martial law. But now the ro-ro passengers were allowed to utilize the terminal for Manila or Cebu bound passengers. The Mukas passengers were subject to the new and bigger Xray scanners used at airports. The ro-ro boat had already bad experience during the Estrada administration when it was bombed [Philstar] while being docked at the port. I think there were several casualties at that time.

Before it took just 5 minutes or less to board the ro-ro but during the martial law heightened security it took us like one hour in the queue. But still, I don’t have any complaints as it is for the general public’s safety.

Joint LTO and PNP checkpoints at MCC Tubod

Being a motorcycle owner, of course, I have my driver’s license. This is the ID I always showed to authorities every time they conducted routine checks on me. But the motorcycle that I owned had expired registration. So, I refrain from using the same whenever I crossed MCC. I planned to register my motorcycle this July.

Well, I have no problem with the joint checkpoint conducted by the PNP and LTO as it apprehends those violators. They checkpoint also obliged the passengers of buses, vans, and jeepneys to go down and show their IDs. Photos of the members of the Maute terrorists were placed on a tarpaulin prominently hanging on the makeshift shade at the checkpoint. I felt safe with the presence of this checkpoints as long as there are no cases of abuse. So far, I can tell that people were very respectful and obedient and the authorities were very courteous but strict at doing their job.

Final thoughts

Finally, I can say that the martial law was very effective in containing the area of clashes and it did not escalate to other places in Mindanao. The citizens of Mindanao reacted positively, obeyed the law, observed curfew hours. How the martial law will end the rebellion in Marawi is although another story as I don’t have any personal accounts because I was not there is another story. What I’m thankful about the martial law declaration is that maintained the peace and order in our place and I felt that my family and my parents are secured in our place while I go back to Kuwait as an OFW.

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