The continuing war against the Bangsamoro
The war in Marawi and against the Bangsamoro has not yet ended as the attacks of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on the life, rights and communities of the Moro people continue unabated. This was the rebuttal of Suara Bangsamoro to the US-Duterte regime’s statement, during the commemoration of the “liberation” of Marawi on October 17, that the war in the city has “already ended.”.
Estimates by the AFP itself and their American masters indicate that only around 214,000 residents who were evicted from Marawi during the seige were able to return to the area (including residents from adjacent towns). In addition, 208,000 are still unable to return to their homes, with 127,000 to remain displaced in the next two to three years. Around 24 communities in the city were effectively destroyed by military shelling and airstrikes, and reconstruction has yet to begin.
Clearly, this is not a victory for the Moro people, rather for the US-Duterte regime’s henchmen, big bourgeois compradors and foreign corporations, and bureaucrat capitalists who are now benefitting from public contracts awarded to them under the “Bangon Marawi” project. This is also a victory to AFP and US military that grabbed hectares of land in Marawi for the construction of a military reservation.
Last October 16, residents and Moro youth protested to demand that they be allowed to return Marawi to rebuild their homes.
They said that they are absolutely fed up with the government’s promises. The scheduled groundbreaking ceremony in the city has been postponed several times already, purportedly due to various reasons. The most recent ruse of the Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) was that Duterte will supposedly not be able to make it to the groundbreaking.
According to Agakhan Sharief, a Marano leader, the government has long promised rehabilitation but in reality, not a single establishment has been constructed up to the present. This is because of the seemingly endless negotiations among bourgeois compradors, bureaucrat capitalists and their foreign cohorts on how to divide economic benefits and booty among themselves. Various companies have been successively awarded with public contracts under a selection process that is riddled with anomalies and corruption. Financial aid supposedly for evacuees are also pocketed by local agencies and Duterte’s cronies.
The TFBM continues to disregard the welfare of residents of 27 barangays at ground zero. Majority of them remain in evacuation centers and suffer from extreme hunger and poverty. They are also burdened with the incessant increases in prices of basic commodities. Last August, regional inflation rate reached 8.1%. Aside from causing widespread hunger, Duterte’s war also blighted the culture of the Moro people.
Duterte’s indiscriminate war and bombings have resulted in the destruction of 37 mosques, 44 madrasah facilities and 22 schools. AFP soldiers have also looted about 3,000 idle houses in ground zero.
In an attempt to pacify residents, the TFBM and local government launched Kambisita, a program allowing residents to visit their houses to salvage their properties within the area.
Faykha Khayriyyah Alonto Ala, resident of Barangay South Mandaya Proper, however said that they are not satisfied with Kambisita as this is merely a temporary solution to their longstanding demand to return to their homes.
Armed conflict will continue Instead of ending the war, the AFP has actually intensified its war against the Moro people. At present, 75% of AFP troops are deployed in Mindanao. The implementation of martial law has emboldened the the military and police to kill and arrest civilians under the pretext of accusing them as members of the Maute group, Abu Sayyaf, or whatever organization they consider terrorist.
The war against the Moro people will carry on and will further intensify as the regime continues to implement more economic programs that are anti-people and pro-foreign and local capitalists. The state continues to bomb Moro communities under the guise of war against terrorism, while glossing over its indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians, destruction and looting of private properties.
Last June 2018, a pregnant woman died after being hit by AFP’s mortar shelling. Currently, the “war on terror” slogan is being utilized as a convenient pretext to their attacks against the Moro people.
On September, seven peasant Tausug were massacred by the AFP during a purported operation against elements of the Abu Sayyaf. The AFP also used Oplan Tokhang as a pretext to justify their attack against nine members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the 105th Base Command of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Force in Matalam, North Cotabato. Last month, state elements also shot-dead in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, Babu Meriam Uy Acob, a Maranao leader and known human rights defender.
The Moro people continue to demand justice over the destruction of Marawi. The Duterte regime has to be held accountable for destroying the city, the death of about 1,000 civilians as a result of unrelenting military operations, the arrest and torture of civilians to coerce them to admit that they are either members or supporters of the Maute group, and other abuses against the Moro people. The Moro people demand that the Duterte regime immediately start the city’s reconstruction instead of constructing temporary settlements, and finally allow them to return to their homes.
The Bangsamoro Organic Law is utterly useless for the Moro People as it fails to address the root causes of the Moro’s armed struggle. Instead, the regime has bound to it and gradually disable the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Simultaneous with the signing of the bogus law, Duterte also compelled each municipality in Lanao del Sur to yield and surrender their arms which denies the people the power to defend themselves against the attacks of the regime’s armed forces.
The Duterte regime’s neglect of the people’s rights and welfare and its wanton attacks against the Moro people to sow its reign of terror across the Bangsamoro and exploit their resources, are the reasons why the Moro’s armed struggle will continue. The Moro people are left with no choice but to take up arms to defend their lives, livelihood and ancestral domain against the attacks of state forces and the US-Duterte regime. The unity between the Moro people and revolutionary forces of Mindanao will be further strengthened as they carry on the struggle for their right to self-determination and freedom.