Terror Attacks in Mindanao

Article by: Angelica Chang

Davao City has been struck by violence in a tragic terrorist attack. On the evening of September 2, a bomb exploded at a night market near Roxas Avenue, leaving 14 dead and over 60 wounded. Islamic militant group Abu Sayyaf has claimed responsibility for the bombing, and officials have acknowledged the attack last Friday as an act of retaliation against President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent military offensives in nearby Sulu. Duterte’s aggressive plans of eliminating the terror group earlier that week had prompted Abu Sayyaf to intensify efforts in unifying the Mujahideens of the country, and to push for the adoption of the Hadith law in the Philippine constitution. The Hadith is a record of Prophet Muhammad’s philosophy, and is acknowledged as a major source of religious law in Islam, while the Mujahideens are those who fight for Islamic conquest. It is clear that the Abu Sayyaf’s armed struggle against non-Muslim civilians in the country has called for serious government intervention.

Abu Rami, the group’s spokesperson had declared that “[they] did this to show President Duterte that we are not afraid of anyone” (ABS-CBN), demonstrating their reluctance to surrender, while warning Davao to prepare for future attacks. However, ISM student, junior Andrea P., expressed her hope to redirect attention back to addressing the issue of terrorism, stating that she wished, “people focused on the fact that this was a bombing of the innocent rather than the theory that it was statement to President Duterte.”

The dispute between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Abu Sayyaf dates back to the 1970’s and continues to breed political instability over Mindanao. Unfortunately, these recent offensive developments show no signs of reconciliation, as merely a day after the Davao bombing, two separate explosions struck North and South Cotabato in Mindanao. These resulted in the collapse of a transmission tower and inflicted damage to the Vice Mayor’s house.

In response to these terror crimes, President Duterte has vowed to abolish Abu Sayyaf, and has declared a state of national emergency to be implemented across the country, giving him the power to utilize armed forces to “suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion” (Article VII, Section 18 of the Philippine Constitution). The President expects to intensify operations against organized crime through military offensives and the implementation of security checks in public places. With echoes of dictator Ferdinand Marcos’s exploitation of the Philippine’s State of National Emergency in 1972, Duterte’s spokesperson Ernesto Abella clarified that his orders are “not a declaration of martial law”, as “the writ of habeas corpus has not been suspended” (ABS-CBN). This guarantees the protection of an individual’s civil rights on the active operations of the country’s judicial institutions.

While Duterte’s decisions reflect his undying perseverance in protecting the nation’s security, it is highly important for the government to foster cooperation between civilians to restore peace and order within the country. Ultimately, it is the government’s obligation to ensure that laws and human rights are upheld during security conducts, and the balance of power between civilians and authorities is maintained. ISM junior, Joungbihn P., said that “while we are powerless to exert influence in alleviating the tension between Abu Sayyaf and the Philippine government, we should try to nurture an environment where different religions can peacefully coexist.”