Press Release
May 24, 2017

Privilege Speech of Sen. Juan Miguel F. Zubiri
(on the Declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao)
May 24, 2017

Mr. President, yesterday the whole nation was shocked to learn of two incidents of terrorism. One was in Manchester, United Kingdom at the concert of pop artist Ariana Grande at the Manchester Arena where 22 lives were lost. The other one is within our shores, at the heartland of Mindanao in Marawi City where as we speak lives are being lost and innocent people are taken against their will. As a Senator from Mindanao, I am appalled and indignant with the brazen manner that this Maute group, and I dare say, terrorists have occupied certain buildings and installations in the City, burned some buildings and terrorized not only the people of Marawi but even the adjoining provinces and cities.

Let us take a look at some of the terrorism and havoc these terrorists have done in Marawi City. (Pics and short video)

Mr. President, enough is enough. This group has just pushed back the gains we have achieved in the aspect of the peace process with the secessionist groups, and for the economic development of Mindanao. We have taken great strides to bring development in Mindanao and pursue inclusive growth for our people and this incident has brought us a step backward.

I believe we should rally behind the President. This is a time for unity and courage. We should show our people and the whole world that the Philippines is no place for terrorists. We have to use all constitutional means to suppress lawlessness and, once and for all, eradicate terrorism from our land without disregarding the paramount safety of the civilian population. We should fully support the AFP and PNP in fighting and neutralizing these terrorists and place them before the bar of law. These terrorists should fully account for the man-made disaster they are creating and the miseries they are causing the people of Marawi City.

As a Senator from Mindanao, I understand the President's frustration in dealing with armed groups across all regions. We should take this as a chance to finally disarm them and deal with their sympathizers from some LGUs coddling these terrorists.

With the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao, it is hoped that any threat to national security and public safety will be neutralized.

The military and police should be prepared to take extreme action themselves. We could be looking at a total lockdown of the whole Mindanao mainland and the Sulu and Tawi-Tawi archipelagos and cordon off the coastal areas. We know that many of the terrorists are often better armed and equipped than our soldiers and police. They sometimes carry more lethal weapons plus the fact that they know the terrain and have sympathizers on the ground, frighteningly catch our soldiers and police flat-footed.

We, as lawmakers and policymakers, with the power of the purse should reverse this disservice to our troops and equip them with better and modern weaponry to boost their fighting capability and bring-up the morale of our soldiers and police.

We should not let these incidents become a contagion that will destroy several decades of gains in integration, tolerance and peaceful coexistence.

The Marawi conflagration, if uncontained, will send us back to square one. These terrorists want to bring us back to the middle ages with a clash of religions and civilizations and back to the violent 12th century A.D. where the crusaders would be fighting the soldiers of the Caliphate of Salahudin. That is the agenda of these terrorists.

If we don't eliminate these terrorists, we shall lose the gains we achieve for inclusiveness and religious tolerance, especially the laws we passed for Mindanao and Islam. Our government, recognizing the importance of our Muslim brethren, have passed laws and holidays such as commemorating Eidl Fitr and Eidl Adha, the creation of the National Commission for Muslim Filipinos and the creation of strengthening of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) who, in fact, is led by a Maranao. In fact the MinDA and my Office are in the midst of packaging an infrastructure program for Mindanao which local communities, leaders and even lumads gave their inputs. Congress is also eager to re-establish the arrested debates on the Bangsamoro organic law.

Military might is crucial. Victory cannot be won by statements and exhortations for peace alone. The force and direction of our anti-terrorist muscle and brains must jibe. Therefore, we appeal to the local communities and LGUs to support our combined military and police efforts. Help the government in intelligence gathering to rid their areas of extremists. Let us be vigilant so that we can re-establish peace and order. And let me ask: how did so many foreign terrorists gain footholds in so many pockets of Mindanao. Where were the civilian eyes and ears of the AFP and the PNP? And I wonder why the LGUs do not know these?

I hope we can have a multi-racial, multi-faith society such as Singapore and Malaysia. These societies have prospered out of the productive economic, political and social peaceful co-existence of Muslims with people of other religions.

Sabah has a Christian governor leading a Muslim dominated state. Singapore, the busiest trading and financial center in South East Asia is very multi-faith and multi-racial society. Remarkably, both these societies flourish under a strong rule of law. The law is applied equally across all faiths.

I believe Islam is a faith of peace. I have many Muslim friends who I consider sisters and brothers living in these areas. They don't share the extremist ideology of these terrorists. We know that a vast majority of Moslems do not like what is happening in Marawi right now. They also do not want the contagion to spread to Iligan City, Cagayan de Oro City and other cities of Mindanao - to enumerate a few of the prosperous and peaceful centers of growth in Mindanao. Many towns in my home province of Bukidnon also border Lanao Sur and are close to Marawi City.

As a Mindanaoan, I know majority of Muslim Filipinos want to achieve peace in their lifetime. They don't want their children and grandchildren to cower in fear of terrorists as what had happened in Ipil and Zamboanga City sieges from where we should have learned our lessons.

I propose that the military and local chiefs draw up a Quick Reaction Protocol (QRP) so that the community can close ranks easily and repel such extremist incursions, or even just the sightings of suspicious individuals and movement of arms. The Barangay 143 of the Philippine Red Cross is a workable template for civilian and military anti-terrorist collaboration or QRP. If the Red Cross can be quick and effective in disaster risk reduction and management, because we have volunteers in every barangay who monitor and report any disaster happening in their areas almost in real time. I believe we can replicate Barangay 143 effectively in anti-terrorism efforts.

Thus, this representation stands behind the President, our Commander-In-Chief in his declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao. Let us finish this menace once and for all. To my brothers and sisters in Mindanao, be assured, that Congress will work with the Executive and guarantee that the strong arm of the law and justice will prevail in our Island of Mindanao. As Congress will hold a Joint Session on the declaration of martial law in mainland Mindanao, Tawi-Tawi and Sulu Archipelagos, the principles of justice, tolerance and peace shall be foremost in my mind.

Thank you.

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