If you live in Mindanao, are visiting Mindanao, or plan to visit Mindanao soon, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
Where I live, Davao, life has really not changed much at all (if any). I have told you this each week since Martial law was declared here on May 23, 2017. The martial law was declared to be for 60 days, but it could go longer, depending on whether there are more “bad guys” for the government to clean up. Life is normal here in Davao, and most of this part of the island. I went to General Santos over the weekend, and will be writing in detail about that, but things were also pretty normal there.
Things are different in some other parts of Mindanao, though. In general, you can figure that the closer you get to Marawi, life is impacted by Martial Law. Generally, I would say that in much of Northern Mindanao (CdO, Iligan, Ginoog, possibly Butuan) all the way over to Western Mindanao (Zamboanga peninsula) and in that general area, there will be plenty of inconveniences, slow travel, etc. allow extra time for travel. Above all, if you are inconvenienced by things like check points, questioning and such, do not lose your head. Don’t get mad. Remember, it is martial law, and you don’t want to run afoul of authorities. Be friendly. Be cooperative. Be kind. Above all, don’t get angry. Don’t yell at soldiers, they are only doing their jobs. I will say that in the few encounters that I have had with military during Martial Law, they have been kind and have gone out of their way to make me feel comfortable. I will be writing more about this later this week when I write about my visit to GenSan.
There is no “Free Speech”
A lot of foreigners talk about “Free Speech”. They tell me that they have free speech – they are Americans, Aussies, British or whatever, and their Constitution guarantees them free speech. Well, my friends the protections of your country’s constitution do not extend outside the borders of your country. If you do things like demonstrate against the Philippine government, you can (and probably will) be deported. You might even spend a little time in jail before they send you home.
As a foreigner here in the Philippines, you cannot just speak out the way you would back home. Unlike in some countries (like the USA for sure), the Constitution here does not apply to people who are not citizens. I am not saying they can or will do anything to you, but for things like demonstrating against the government, that will not be tolerated, especially in an area that is under Martial Law.
Carry ID at all times
I have recently found that it is important that you carry ID at all times, if you go out in public. I have never been asked to show my ID in Davao City, but during my weekend trip, we did pass through a few checkpoints, and every time, I was asked to produce ID, and it was checked very closely. Actually, as I think about it, I was asked once in Davao City to produce ID. When we boarded our bus at Ecoland Bus Terminal, we had to produce ID before we were allowed to board.
I have no problem producing ID in this type of situation. In fact, it is probably good that they are doing that, because they can weed out wanted people who might have association with terrorism. I would say that the need for ID is a safety thing that is good for all of us.
In some cases, at checkpoints and such, I did see people who said they had no ID, and those people were taken elsewhere and held for further questioning. Things like “why don’t you have your ID?” I never saw anybody who was detained for an extended period, but those with no ID were held up a bit longer than the rest of us.
So, the bottom line is that you should always have ID with you. It is not hard to do, just carry it.
Above all, I think that the most important thing is that you should respect authority at this time. Show respect and kindness to soldiers who may question you, check your ID or whatever. Being disrespectful really produces no good results for you, so don’t do that. These guys are only doing what is necessary to protect our safety. I have never seen any military people abusing their added authority during this Martial Law. I don’t believe anything like that is going on.
Perhaps if you run across a “rogue” soldier at a checkpoint, you could nicely ask to see his superior officer and talk to him (nicely), but I don’t even think that would be necessary.
Now, as I said above, as you get closer to the affected area, I am sure things are a bit more tense. Here in Davao, we are a good 10 to 12 hours drive from Marawi, it is like a different world. So, I think that it is to be expected that the authorities are a little more relaxed here. Also, Davao has had very tight security for many years already (and it has been effective), so I would say that Dabawenyos already have a respect for the military and police, so it is not new here.
Curfew and going out at Night
Personally, I am not really a person that likes to go out at night. During the day, I am happy to go all around town, but I like to stay home at night. It is not that I am fearful of going out after dark, I just like to be home with my family in the evenings. At this time, though, I am even a little more strict on myself about being home by the time it gets dark outside. I think it is the wise thing to do. Some parts of the island are under curfew, and those people must be off the streets after certain hours (it depends on where you are). There is no curfew in Davao that I am aware of, so that is not a concern here. But, I just think it is a good idea to be home after dark. It is an individual decision though, that is just my advice.
Overall, I don’t feel that the Martial Law is much of a big deal that will impact the lives of most people in Mindanao. In the long run, I think it will be good for us in the long run (I hope anyway) by cleaning out terrorism in Mindanao.