“It is ironic for a president who claims he has a blood of a Meranaw, and claims he knows the decades-long problem of the Moro people and sympathizes with their struggle, to also be the only president to have pulverized the whole lone Islamic City in the South and caused the destruction not only of their properties but their culture, belief and community,” said Datu Jerome Succor Aba, spokesperson of SANDUGO, first ever alliance of national minorities in the Philippines.

Aba recounted that after President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao in May 23 and the ensuing military airstrikes in Marawi City as a response to the threat posed by the Maute Group and other ISIS-inspired groups, Duterte immediately blamed the Meranaws, the predominant tribe in Marawi City, for coddling the group hence they were able to siege the city.

More than 400,000 residents were displaced and nearby municipalities as well as the destruction of the whole self-declared Islamic City in Mindanao came as a result of the shelling of Marawi City.

Aba added that by far President Duterte’s implementation of the US global “war on terror” has been more destructive compared to the previous administration, whose operations were mostly massive arrest and detention of suspected terrorists due to corresponding amount in dollars under the US State Department Rewards for Justice Program. Benigno Aquino III’s presidency was also hounded by the Mamasapano carnage, where Philippine National Police Special Action Forces (SAF) carried out the US government’s Oplan Wolverine/Exodus to capture and/or kill US-terrorist lister Zulkipli Bin Hir or Marawan but ended disastrously as 44 SAF were killed in combat.

Aba also criticized the Duterte’s rehabilitation program Bangon Marawi which has opened to the USAID and other international aid agencies “known for giving aid with strings attached.”  Aba calls for deep investigation to the real purpose of US soldiers deployed inside Marawi City and the rest of Moro provinces in Mindanao as reports of AFP owning more than half of Marawi City gives the idea that the land is being primed to accomodate military installations for US soldiers.

“While President Duterte has narrowed the debate of the Moro people’s struggle for self-determination on our allegiance to his fascist government, flag and constitution, he is the one who has violated the sovereignty of our country by allowing US control in his war against the Moro people,” said Aba.

According to Aba, President Duterte has given the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) full control in Marawi City and other Moro communities and even allowed the US military to direct the military operations against the ISIS-inspired groups by providing drones for surveillance and intelligence support as well as US soldiers who were seen inside the battlezones in Marawi City.

“President Duterte’s pronouncement of an independent foreign policy last year is but an empty rhetoric. What we are experiencing right now is a fascist regime subservient to the economic, political and military interest of its master, the US government,” Aba said.

Sandugo held a forum against Islamophobia at the Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya campsite in the University of the Philippines Diliman, in preparation for tomorrow’s rally against the anniversary signing of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the commemoration of September 11 as the start of the “war on terror,” now on its 16th year.

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