(The following is a joint statement of all Ateneo presidents on the
current situation in Mindanao.)


Marawi, an old and storied city, has almost 400 years of history. It
is Mindanao’s Kilometer 0; the starting point for all other baseline
measurements on the island. In recent days Marawi has become the
center of a furious battle between government forces attempting to
arrest a senior Abu Sayyaf member and forces sympathetic to his goals.

People who behead, kidnap, steal, destroy, and extort for any reason
are lawbreakers and are criminals of the worst kind. Reference to any
religious creed to rationalise their action does not mitigate its
criminality, but makes it more horrifying. For the Supreme Being
worshipped both by Christians and Muslims alike is a God of Compassion
and Peace. The “God” therefore that is claimed to call forth the
bombing of innocent men, women and children is a false god, as Pope
Francis has repeatedly pointed out. The undersigned wholeheartedly
support the members of the Armed Forces and the police who give their
last full measure of devotion so that our country may be safe.

To keep us safe, the President has declared Martial Law in Mindanao.
He has speculated that this condition may have to be extended to the
entire country. The declaration of Martial Law is of course one of the
powers vested in the President by the Constitution. There are numerous
safeguards in place against the abuse of Martial Law. Essentially both
of the other branches of government have the power to revoke the
actions of the President.

Some have questioned the scope of the declaration as overbroad as it
encompasses the entire Mindanao. Moreover, the President has other
powers, such as calling out the armed forces to quell lawless
Admittedly though, many voices favor Martial Law, claiming they are
not afraid because the security apparatus of the state will keep them
safe. These voices argue that only criminals are afraid of Martial

We have more than a decade of reasons to be wary of Martial Law. We
have seen what happens when every dissenting voice is labeled as
seditious, when every inquiring mind is denounced as unpatriotic. We
are not supporting terrorists by remembering our scars and learning
from our pain.

A Martial Law limited in scope, enforced with discipline and
restraint, with respect for the Constitution and the inviolability of
human rights, can solve specific problems. An unrestrained Martial
Law, one that keeps its decisions and movements quiet and secret from
its citizens, unconcerned with human dignity, will only compound the
problem it seeks to solve.

We call on our government officials to act judiciously as they
exercise the immense range of their power. Civilian rule must always
reign supreme over military rule. We call on everyone to remain
vigilant, to hold our officials accountable for their actions, to
demand to know and to be told the truth at all times. We expect that
the safeguards placed in our Constitution to curb the abuse of power
will be respected and followed. And we trust our President when he
tells us that martial rule shall only be limited and temporary.
Let us not waver in our desire and action to bring peace to our land,
especially in Mindanao. Martial Law might buy us short-term cessation
of hostilities. But it does not uproot the despair that has bedeviled
our people for years. Let us aim for the very roots of our temptation
to terror and violence. We listen to our Provincial superior, Fr Tony
Moreno SJ, himself a Mindanaoan, who has written:

“Conflict in Mindanao, we know, is rooted in social injustice. Poverty
in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao is the highest in the
country. Educational delivery is worst in the country. Conflict in
Mindanao is increasingly caused by what Pope Francis has so often
decried, and most recently repeated in Cairo: ideology that
masquerades as religion. In Mindanao, our Muslim friends decry a
corruption of their religion of peace into a Wahabi-Salafi ideology of
hatred that victimizes not only Christians but especially Muslims of
peace. Even so, many Muslim youth in Mindanao today are drawn to this
ideology. It comes with many names: ISIS, BIFF, Abu Sayaf, Maute.
Eliminate these, and there will still be many more. They are
frustrated by rounds of ostentatious negotiations that do not prosper;
they are wearied of their hunger or joblessness; they are fascinated
by the idea of a world where their ideology rules supremely and
exclusively. All who do not agree, they are taught to hate. Or kill.
“This is the heart of the serious conflict in Mindanao that we must
address. Before it ever explodes in violence like in Marawi, it brews
in the frustration and pain of social exclusion. And martial law and
any such hard-fisted solutions do not get to the roots of this
problem, let alone benefit the country as a whole.”

In this month of Ramadan, we pray with our Muslim brothers and sisters
for God to show us the way to lasting peace. And we pledge our support
to our brothers and sisters of Marawi, for all that they will need to
rebuild their beautiful city.

Ad majorem Dei gloriam,

Fr Karel S San Juan SJ (President, Ateneo de Zamboanga University)
Fr Joel E Tabora SJ (President, Ateneo de Davao University)
Fr Jose Ramon T Villarin SJ (President, Ateneo de Manila University)
Fr Primitivo E Viray Jr SJ (President, Ateneo de Naga University)
Fr Roberto C Yap SJ (President, Xavier University- Ateneo de Cagayan)

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