I’m Living Under Martial Law. Here’s What It’s Like.
If you lived through Hurricane Katrina, you probably know what martial law is like. Curfews. Tight security. Gun confiscation. Martial law plays out differently in different places, but it usually involves some common denominators: civil restrictions, police surveillance, economic instability. Just to name a few.
I know, because I’m living in it right now.
In the Philippines, martial law was declared over a month ago in our southern island of Mindanao. The president, Rodrigo Duterte, issued the proclamation hours after Islamist militants attacked the city of Marawi, about 3 to 4 hours from where I live. A group called “Maute”, inspired by ISIS, stormed into town and torched buildings, took hostages, freed jailed rebels and attacked a police station, seizing vehicles and weapons. They went on a rampage following a failed attempt by our military to capture one of their leaders (on whose head, by the way, is a $5-million bounty by the FBI) who was hiding in the city.
The government responded with ground assaults and air raids. Urban warfare has dragged on for 7 weeks now, but security forces have managed to regain 15 of the 19 villages besieged by the rebels. Hundreds have died, including soldiers, police, civilians and the terrorists themselves.
While most of the residents fled, dozens got trapped inside their homes, succumbing to starvation and death. Others were taken as prisoners and used as human shields by the terrorists who held strategic sniper positions in mosques and tall buildings. Many of the city’s structures have been reduced to rubble.
President Duterte’s decision to impose martial law wasn’t received without criticism. Marawi, located in the predominantly Muslim province of Lanao del Sur, is a tiny city of 87 kilometers — a mere thousandth of the 97,530-kilometer expanse of Mindanao. Many have questioned why the entire island, with a population of 20 million and the second biggest island in the country, was placed under martial rule. Insurgency and terrorism are problems our government has had to deal with for decades, especially in this region. Various groups have waged all kinds of rebellion in an attempt to gain power, supremacy or autonomy from the national government: communist rebels, Muslim extremists, clan and political warlords. Attacks like this are, at best, isolated — and really aren’t new. A state of emergency probably would’ve sufficed. But the president fears that the militants, reportedly seeking to establish a Southeast Asian caliphate in Marawi, could spread and “contaminate” surrounding areas