A funny thing has happened since Congress decided to grant a 5 month extension of martial law: Silence. Virtually no new news has come out of Marawi this week regarding AFP operations. This is in sharp contrast to the past 60 days where there has been a flurry of activity and daily reports streaming out of Marawi. Why is this? Because Duterte has suspended military operations in Marawi.
President Duterte has suspended the military offensive in Marawi, citing concerns over the safety of some 300 civilians being held by Islamic militants still holed up in some parts of the besieged city.
Or has he?
President Duterte is allowing security forces to take their time on the Marawi crisis even as he stressed that the operations against the Maute terrorists would continue until the last terrorist is killed.
This article was originally published on July 26th at 12am and was not changed until 11:19am. So for almost 12 hours the news was that Duterte had suspended military operations in Marawi. For some reason the first paragraph of the article was rewritten to state that Duterte was allowing the AFP to take its time and the headline was changed to reflect a decidedly different narrative from what was first published. But we already know that Duterte told the AFP to slow down and take their time three days previously on July 23rd. Why print 3-day old news? This article was changed with little fanfare and the administration did not issue a statement about it being in error. This is odd because the Duterte administration takes every chance it can get to pummel the media. So why the change? Why did it take almost 12 hours for anyone to notice this error? Suspension of military operations would be a huge story and if it was not true from the start then how did it get approved by the editor?
Perhaps because Duterte really has either suspended military operations or slowed down operations enough that they might as well be suspended and it would be very bad for the public to find out. Or maybe not. The Filipino public doesn't seem to care about analysing what Duterte is doing and the consequences for the nation. Joint exploration for oil in the Philippines territory with the Chinese even though China previously said that if the Philippines unilaterally drilled for oil it would mean war? That's great news because it means the Philippines is teaming up with the USA's enemy.
Virtual silence from Marawi is not the only odd thing to happen since Duterte received his 5 month extension of martial law. He is also ramping up attacks on the Commission on Human Rights even going so far as to say it would be better if the CHR were abolished.
So Duterte has told the AFP to take their time in Marawi because of all the hostages and that "It was the government’s “moral duty” to make sure the hostages were alive, even if the war drags on for a year" and now he is saying he wants to abolish the Commission on Human Rights? On the surface that does not make a bit of sense. Why talk about moral duty to hostages in one breath and then proclaim that the CHR is better off abolished in the next?
One could say that it makes Duterte look stupid.
President Rodrigo Duterte clarifies there's no need to put the entire country under martial law since there is no rebellion happening nationwide.
"No nationwide martial law. And because why? I will look stupid before the eyes of the public if I do that. And I am not ready to be called stupid," Duterte said to reporters after his two-hour-long state of the nation address.
The chief executive said military rule was declared because there was trouble in Mindanao. He admitted, though, that there was a failure of intelligence regarding the strength of terrorist enemies in Marawi City.
However, he assured the public that government troops in the south were not into abuses as they "are there in good faith."
Duterte is a hard man to decipher because he is constantly flip flopping so one must peer deeply between the lines to get his meaning. Two months ago it was this:
"If I think that the ISIS has already taken foothold also in Luzon and terrorism is really not far behind, I might declare martial law throughout the country to protect the people."
The key to understanding his denial that there will be nationwide martial law rests on the word "presently." There is no rebellion presently, there is no reason presently, to declare nationwide martial law. But when there is a reason then he will call for nationwide martial law.
And that reason is forthcoming.
The AFP allowed almost 300 Maute members to escape. That is one reason. Surely those terrorists will regroup and attack at some point in the future. However the most compelling and immediate reason is that the NPA is increasing attacks and Duterte has declared the peace talks over.
And it's right at the door.
What Philippine leaders had failed to do in half a century, President Rodrigo Duterte wants done in the next five years of his six-year term — wipe out communist rebels.
Philippine National Police Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa said Mr. Duterte’s instructions to him were to focus next on fighting the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, after the government finishes off remnants of the Maute group in Marawi City.
It remains uncertain, however, when the war on the Maute Group in Marawi would end and that on the NPA would begin, which Dela Rosa described would be a “full scale” campaign.
Let's look at a claim which has been making the rounds since Congress granted the extension and which Duterte mentions when he says he does not want to be called stupid. This would would be the claim that there was some kind of failure of intelligence .Get rid of the NPA “whatever it takes” was Mr. Duterte’s instruction, according to Dela Rosa. “After Marawi, we will focus on our problem [with the NPA],” said the police chief.
The crisis in Marawi City was not caused by a failure of intelligence but by connivance between local warlords and terrorists who stockpiled firearms in the city and the “soft” policy towards rebels, President Duterte said yesterday.
Duterte said the government was aware that firearms were being stockpiled in Mindanao but took it for granted because of the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
“We have adopted a very soft policy towards the rebels and this came about because they were bringing firearms. Since we are thinking of getting peace with the MNLF and MILF. The game there involves firearms. We took it for granted. We just allowed it to happen because we never knew until that time who was really the enemy,” Duterte told the troops in Butuan City.
“When they see firearms and they were told that it’s for MILF or MNLF, the standing order was maybe we can talk to our brothers so there will be no trouble (but) it turned out that the Maute were bringing the firearms surreptitiously and we did not know how much ammunition and firearms were stockpiled, and besides it was not a failure of intelligence,” he added.
How about this recent bit of propaganda: national hero boxing champion Senator Manny Pacquiao visited the troops in full uniform. You did know he holds the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Reserves right?
"When I declared martial law while I was in Moscow, I already knew everything. I knew how long it would take for us and I knew about the deployment of snipers and where they're hiding their weapons," Duterte said at Palace's Rizal Hall.
"I already have the complete picture and I knew that it would be a long fight," he added.
Amazing! When he was still several thousand miles away in Moscow he knew everything including how long it would take and about the snipers and where the weapons were being hid. Duterte is just that prescient. Does he happen to know when and where the NPA are going to strike and how many weapons they have and where their snipers will be? If he does it would be very helpful if he could inform the AFP and PNP beforehand so as to minimise casualties.
When is anyone going to call him out on his nonsense? Why hasn't the media picked up on his impossible buffoonery and run him through the proverbial ringer? First he says there was no intelligence failure because the government knew that weapons were being stockpiled in the area and they had a soft policy towards terorists. Then he says there was an intelligence failure because they did not know about the tunnels or that Maute was stockpiling weapons. Now he claims that, despite insisting that the fight would be over in 3 days, before he had even returned to the Philippines and received a proper and thorough briefing on the situation he knew it would be a long fight and that he knew where the weapons were being hid and also about the snipers!!
And he wants to be the one who will judge all human rights violations complaints against the PNP and AFP? Who would trust Duterte's judgement on any matter?