Duterte’s bombing of civilians in Marawi takes attention from his death squads against the poor

Marawi city (Jorge Silva:Reuters) June 29 2017

The NY Times had a recent article titled, “Duterte, Focused on Drug Users in Philippines, Ignored Rise of ISIS.” How many deceptions can you pack into one headline? Duterte was never focused on drug users. His so-called drug war was always a war against poor slum dwellers occupying valuable urban real estate targeted for gentrification & development. It is part of neoliberal scorched earth policies which created the slums in the first place from expropriated farmers & displaced farm workers & now wants to clear the slums to build resorts, upscale hotels (like Trump Tower Manila) & shopping malls, free trade zones for sweatshops.

It’s expected that the NY Times, a voice for the ruling elite, would express alarm about the rise of ISIS in the Philippines. Since the Philippines, despite the loud-mouthed vituperations of Duterte, is an essential ally of the US & since Duterte is scheduled to visit Trump in Washington, the NY Times wants to put vigilante slaughter of unarmed civilians out of sight, out of mind so there’ll be no hitch in remilitarizing the Philippines with US weapons. If we fall for it, they have us just where they want us. It’s regrettable to see progressives circulating alarmist media reports about the rise of ISIS in Marawi city on the island of Mindanao without examining the history of Muslims in the region, their struggle against persecution, & the role of the US military which has long been active there–almost certainly to facilitate such a development as connections to ISIS by local insurgents. It’s another instance of ‘if ISIS didn’t exist, the US & Duterte regime would have to invent them.’

Muslims have been in the Philippines, centered in Mindanao & surrounding parts of the archipelago, since the 13th century. Since then they have fought the Spanish, the US military (more than once), the Japanese occupation in WWII, repeated military assaults by successive Filipino regimes & have sustained persecution, massacres, mass rapes. Small groups of oppositionists in Marawi could have gone off the deep end politically & forged associations with ISIS. But one has to examine how that happened & mostly question who arms them. How do they get rocket propelled grenades & high velocity assault weapons (which media claims they have) delivered past the Philippines navy & US special forces deployed in the area? Even if some of the forces of resistance have begun to associate with ISIS, it does not mean the struggle of Muslims in the region is unjustified.

June 30th will mark one year of Duterte’s reign of terror, of death squads & vigilantes gunning down the poor in the streets & desecrating their bodies. Over 1,000 people every month, including teens & small children, have died in this onslaught & Duterte boasts he has no intention of ending it until he leaves office in 2022. It would be a mistake to turn our attention from his crimes against the poor to wringing our hands about the rise of ISIS in Marawi. Is there an operative distinction between Duterte’s death squads & bombers & ISIS?

Media reports that most of the 200,000 to 250,000 residents of Marawi have fled ISIS terrorism but they did not begin their flight until the Philippines air force began bombing the city to smithereens just three weeks ago. If the intention is to take out ISIS, they would not be bombing civilians but cutting the supply of weapons shipped into ports on Mindanao island from overseas.

This photo a an explosion from a a barrage of Philippines air force bombing over Marawi.

(Photo by Jorge Silva/Reuters)