THERE is glaring evidence of terror happening in Mindanao. Civilians are getting killed. Flags of the Daesh, or IS, are seen being displayed in the streets by masked men with ammunition strapped to their bodies, scenes of horror that we had thought only existed in faraway cities like Mosul and Raqqa.
But now, we see them in Marawi.
And yet, we still debate on whether the President is doing the right thing.
There is an explosion of contradictions, and of hypocrisies, as those who are not even affected by the violence, and those who are already living in the diaspora, vociferously condemn the President from the comfort of their distance.
We see academics who teach the Constitution summon their pretenses of being objective, then perorate on the virtue of defying it, and making it a mere piece of paper that can be negated and ignored when it becomes a political inconvenience.
They forget that it is democracy that gives the President the mandate to act. And they conveniently ignore that it is also that Constitution against which they hold the President accountable for his acts.
These people are caught in a web of their own pretensions, that they deploy the rules on human rights when it suits their mission to bring down the President, yet they are willing to ignore the Constitution, or supersede it, by what they now mythologize as the voice of conscience, of a people defending their democratic rights even if the Constitution says otherwise.
These are the same people who attack the President’s war on drugs but not the drug dealers and pushers. They put up as a poster of their politics that picture of a woman cradling a slain drug suspect, yet are not willing to see the body of that little girl that was raped by someone high on shabu.
And now they are at it again as they privilege the horrors of a martial law that happened decades ago, while they seem to ignore the horrors of terrorism that is happening in Marawi.
And they are willing to ignore the fact that martial law is a constitutional remedy to deal with terrorism.
Terrorism is a horrifying reality that has challenged and even exceeded the available arsenal of theories and concepts on political violence.
As one who teaches a course on it, I come face to face with the diverse attempts to put some structure and sense of predictability to the occurrence of political violence. Yet, despite the attempts to give a scientific imprint on its what, how, why, where and when, the jury is still out, as there is much diversity in interpretations. For example, while some people argue that political contestations can lead to political repression, others believe that the presence of a strong political challenge to a regime could be a deterrent to repressive practices. Even the causes and consequences of revolutions are still much debated until the present.
It is in this fluidity, which even goes into the heart of the argument that perhaps social upheaval is a stochastic, random process that could defy precise theorizing, that one is confronted by this new monster called terrorism which is a 21st century phenomenon.
Terrorism emerges at a time when social categories such as nations and states are becoming less confined to physical boundaries, and are in fact turning into states of mind. IS has exploded this long-held construct of states being fixed in a given territory, and is now poised to make the state exist wherever there are people who imagine it.
There is reason to believe that IS is planning to establish provinces in other parts of the world, and turn its notion of radical Islam into a global ideology that would reverse what the Jews had earlier done when they established the state of Israel. While the Jews who were scattered in diaspora sought to establish a homeland, the IS radicals are seeking to scatter and embed their notion of an Islamic state, now behaving as a state of mind, all over the world.
The Philippines is a prime target precisely because it is a weak link in the global war on terror.
Our weakness is not only because we have porous boundaries.
It is also because we have weak institutional arrangements to deal with terrorism.
And people like Edsel Lagman who pointed out that terrorism is not a justification for martial law, since it is not an invasion nor is it a rebellion, is one of those who turn our country into this weak link.
It is the politics that he represents that makes the Philippines attractive to IS. We are offering ourselves as a prime destination of terror to become its nesting ground, as we have been identified as a possible province of the Caliphate already established in the Levant, when instead of dealing with the problem as one, we still debate on whether terrorism constitutes a ground to declare martial law.
The Rwandan genocide turned to its most horrifying moments as the UN debated on whether what was happening there was in fact genocide.
Perhaps, Lagman wants to first experience a bomb exploding like that one that obliterated the whole US government in the fictitious TV series “The Designated Survivor” before people like him can allow the President to deal with terrorism.