"Today, we are not only fighting terrorism but also the ill-effects of regionalism, owing to our geographical make-up as a country."
The take-over by several Maute militants of many areas in Marawi City prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law and suspend the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao through Proclamation 216 in the past week. A lot of constitutional experts, Martial Law victims/players and ordinary citizens from all parts of the country have already given their take on the proclamation, citing constitutional, practical and emotional considerations as their reasons for either supporting/contradicting the President's latest move.
It is unfortunate that terrorism continues to pester the world, especially poverty-stricken countries such as the Philippines. The fight against armed struggle has persisted for several decades, and the end seems nowhere in sight as peace talks have not significantly progressed.
However, while the fight against terrorism continues to hound our nation’s peace and order, another battle continues to further fragment our already divided nation -- the battle pitting Luzon against Mindanao. This began with series of arguments, disagreements and fears were expressed through social media over the President's declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao. It did not also help that a group of students in UP staged a protest against the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao a couple of days back. In reaction to these sentiments, which are said to be coming from those in Luzon/Metro Manila, a couple of social media posts such as "Palibhasa taga-Luzon kayo," and "Nasa Mindanao ang Martial Law pero ang mga reklamador ay taga-Luzon" became popular and trending in the last few days. While the goal of the proclamation is to stabilize the situation in Mindanao, it seems that the proclamation has also strained the already fragmented political relationships between those in Luzon and Mindanao.
All the sentiments being expressed through social media, both positive and negative, are actually legitimate. The feelings of safety and security being felt by Mindanawons over the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao are borne from their actual experience today. Meanwhile, the fears being felt by those who were actual victims of Martial Law during the time of former President Marcos are equally legitimate and should not be stepped aside as well. The lack of local understanding and knowledge is also what prompts people to quickly jump-in and say their piece on very sensitive topics or issues. What is sorely lacking from both sides is the openness to understand each other's plights.
It is therefore my appeal for both parties to take time to listen and understand where each party is coming from. For the people in Mindanao, I appeal that you inform and educate the people in Luzon on your situation so that legitimate fears of Luzonians may be allayed given the stigma that had been created by Martial Law to the Luzonians' minds. On the other hand, Luzonians must also make their Mindanao counterparts understand and comprehend their experiences when the first Martial Law in the country was implemented. This will allow those in Mindanao to understand the deeply entrenched wounds that had been inflicted by Martial Law in the hearts and minds of those in Luzon, particularly those in Metro Manila.
Today, we are not only fighting terrorism but also the ill-effects of regionalism, owing to our geographical make-up as a country. Social Media should be made as a tool to unite and not to further divide. We must remember that our national identity is not Manilenos, Luzonians or Mindanawons. Our national identity is Filipino.