A local terrorist group has launched a series of attacks on Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, since approximately 2:00 pm last May 23. Posts and photographs from residents online have made rounds on social media sites, showing the city overrun by the said group. There’s no current, verified figure on the number of casualties involved, but at least eight people have been reported to be harmed by the event.
Reports of school burnings and government building sieges have also made the rounds on major news agency sites. Reports have pegged the number of armed terrorists in Marawi to be ranging from around 50-100 men placed in and around key government buildings and roads. The local city jail has also been bombed.
PNP is currently on the ground, and firefights have been occurring sporadically throughout the day. CNN reports indicate that current focus of government forces and personnel on ground is consolidation of City Hall, and monitoring of Maute group member whereabouts. So far, reports have indicated that conflicts in the area have relatively settled. martial law has been declared in Mindanao.
The Maute group are allegedly behind the attacks, along with alleged help from Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, though official confirmation of this is still being sought. The group is a local terrorist faction with loose Islamist ties mainly based in Lanao del Sur, and hasn’t been known to have any public affiliations with the Islamic State. The organization has pledged allegiance to ISIS, but their support for ISIS hasn’t been recognised in any official capacity whatsoever by the group itself. The group is also largely believed to be responsible for the Davao Market bombings last September 2016.
We’re not sure exactly. We do know however that the timing and location of the attacks is suspect, as well as the abrupt emergence of the crisis. ARMM governor Mujiv Hataman has expressed suspicion regarding the proximity of these attacks to the start of the Ramadan period in a recent CNN report. It is good to note here however that contrary to popular belief, attacks made by terror groups similar to Maute have generally targeted both majority Muslim and majority non-Muslim populations in recent attacks, and the Maute group has been indicted for multiple attacks in the area since the start of this year. All we can say for now is that if anything, though these groups claim to be Muslim, they really aren’t. Bad people do bad things, and no religion encourages that.
President Rodrigo Duterte and major cabinet members are currently away on a five day diplomatic visit to Russia. The mission is part of an effort on the administration’s part to realign Philippine foreign policy away from the United States, by seeking out other sources of economic investment and partnership. This comes on the heels of strained relations with the United States. The trip is also to be attended by a trade delegation expected to lead deals in defence, security, nuclear energy, and stronger cultural ties.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernie Abella and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon have both released statements on behalf of the President, citing his awareness of the situation in Marawi, and his trust in the AFP and PNP’s capabilities to handle the crisis effectively. President Duterte has cut his Russia trip short and is scheduled to fly back to Manila by approximately 3:00 am Manila time tomorrow morning.
The situation is still developing as of now, and news is hard to come by in the area, so humanitarian aid opportunities will have to wait. For now, we advise to simply keep vigil and stay updated, but also to be as prudent as possible when reposting sources and updates pertaining to Marawi. Try to verify sources on social media. Keep tabs on what’s going on through live streams and tweet threads from reputable news agencies.
However, a few of our friends up and about in the development sector have been reaching out to the Red Crescent Society of Marawi for what to do next. The Red Crescent Society is an international humanitarian movement with numerous volunteers worldwide affiliated with the International Red Cross, with the express aim of protecting human life and health, and the prevention of human suffering.
Let us remember that the actions of this terrorist group do not reflect the identity and beliefs of our Muslim brothers and sisters in Marawi. We stand in solidarity with them.
Update as of May 24, 12:30 p.m.
According to Article VII, Section 18 of our constitution, the President can place any part of the country under martial law “when public safety requires it” for up to 60 days. However, upon declaration of martial law, the president also must submit within 48 hours a report of the suspension and reasons for the proclamation to Congress for its approval. Congress in turn by majority vote will decide whether or not to uphold or reject the proposed proclamation within 24 hours.
Note also that while Congress generally approves or rejects martial law declarations, any ordinary citizen can also file a petition to the Supreme Court challenging the legitimacy of the declaration. Martial Law also doesn’t immediately mean that other rights and privileges, such as the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, are immediately suspended.
This is a developing story. If you have any information on how we can directly help the people of Marawi, please send us an email.