Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte recently declared that the martial law declared on the island of Mindanao could be expanded throughout the entire country. This move, Duterte believes, will help fight ISIS in the Philippines. Duterte cut his visit to Russia short to help deal with the ongoing violence. The current martial law covers the city of Marawi and most of the island of Mindanao. Martial law was declared due to the continued fighting between Philippine troops and ISIS militants.
Rodrigo Duterte is no stranger to controversy. As mayor of Davao City, he gave support to the extrajudicial killings of drug users and other criminals. As president, Duterte continues his streak of killing drug users throughout the country. Various human rights groups reported that nearly 2,000 people have died from vigilante groups. Duterte declared his intentions to distance the country from the United States and Europe to become closer to China and Russia.
CNN reported that the city of Marawi has nearly 200,000 people. Ernesto Abella, a Duterte spokesperson said ISIS had captured several buildings in the city, burning many other buildings including a school, a church, and jail. The island of Mindanao is the country center for many Muslims while the remainder of the country is predominantly Catholic. ISIS took control of the medical center and flying an ISIS banner.
A dozen troops have been injured in the fighting while three soldiers have died. Marawi residents sheltered in their homes overnight while other citizens evacuated the city causing massive traffic on the main roads of the city. A priest, Father Teresito Suganob was taken, hostage. Duterte’s trip to Moscow was to acquire armaments to use against ISIS militants in the southern part of the country. ABS-CBN News reported that the martial law might be extended to the Visayas which has been largely left alone during the fight against ISIS. In recent years, however, the Abu Sayyaf group came into the area to kidnap people. Government troops were able to strike back at the group.
Martial law in Mindanao will last for 60 days. Abella said to the Philippine News Agency that the law hopes to “suppress lawless violence and rebellion and for public safety.” Duterte said, however, that it could last as long as a year to continue fighting ISIS. Under former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, the Philippines had 14 years or martial law. During those years, many human rights violations occurred. If ISIS managed to take a “foothold” in Luzon, martial law might be declared throughout the country, Duterte said.
By Cheryl Werber