There would be no honest-to-goodness Independence Day for Filipinos to celebrate and commemorate on Monday, June 12, while the battle to retake Marawi City rages on. It is high time Filipinos realize this momentous day was paid for by the blood, sweat and tears our ancestors shed to liberate and establish a nation from the yoke of nearly 400 years of Spanish domination.
This time around, Filipino soldiers are risking life and limb to liberate Marawi from local and foreign terrorists and their dastardly intentions of establishing a training ground and base of operations in the heart of Mindanao. The terrorists are chipping away at the wholeness of a nation established by our forefathers more than a century ago. This time, innocent civilians caught in the crossfire or summarily executed are collateral damage.
The situation is a bifurcated dilemma of a nation and its leadership, a historical watershed that preceded all that had happened since the yellow, red, white and blue was unfurled in Kawit, Cavite, 119 years ago in 1898. Its ramifications will echo through the ages long after the last shot has rung out in Marawi and the monochromatic ISIS flag has been taken down and the yellow, red, white and blue is once again flapping proudly over the capital of Lanao del Sur.
The three yellow stars dotting each corner of the white triangle of the Philippine flag signify the wholeness of a nation and its three principal island groups—Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. The choice is simple: the enemy must be stopped from chipping away at the integrity of nationhood based on twisted ideology.
Given the complexity of the Marawi siege, the choices that must be made lie in the hands of President Rodrigo Duterte and his generals, along with his non-uniformed advisers.
The first choice was Proclamation 216, declaring martial law and suspending the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao. Was it a difficult decision? Only the President could tell, if one day he decides to make public how it really came about on May 23, while he was on a state visit in Moscow that day the fighting erupted in Marawi.
Doubts and fears were raised by lawmakers, international organizations and civil society groups that martial law would spur abuse of power and authority on the ground. So far, no incident about government troops committing atrocities against civilians and those suspected of supporting the terrorists has been reported. The government must keep this record unblemished.
It is imperative for the government to execute the tall order of an end game while keeping collateral damage at zero as much as possible and troop casualty to the barest minimum, because there can be no meaningful Independence Day for Filipinos while the siege of Marawi is going on.
Andres Bonifacio, leader of the Katipunan, a rebel movement symbolized by the white triangle on the Philippine flag, emphasized the love of one’s country in his poem “Pag-Ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa” or “Love for One’s Land of Birth.”
Go, you who have lived
in the full hope of comfort,
and who reaped nothing but bitterness,
Go and love the oppressed country.”
Independence Day is not just another holiday hijacked by unscrupulous men and women of commerce mesmerizing the consumer to go on a spending binge, even if that is part and parcel of the freedom to pursue one’s passion guaranteed by the Constitution. The day our forefathers unshackled the islands from an abusive colonial power defined the very essence of our existence today as a nation and a people in a world that is full of hope in the face of global terrorism.