Dubai: Filipinos in the UAE who hail from Mindanao island — where martial law has been declared following violence from militants — say that they are confident that their government can handle the fragile situation.
On Tuesday, President Rodrigo Duterte imposed a 60-day period of martial law on the island.
The announcement came after militant groups — some of which pledged support for Daesh — tore through the Muslim-majority city of Marawi.
Thousands of residents have been evacuated as the army pushes back against the militants.
Duterte, himself a Mindanaoan, announced on Wednesday that martial law could be rolled out across the entire country. Martial law has not been declared in the Philippines since 1986.
This is only the second time martial law has been declared since the fall in 1986 of longtime dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Mindanao is home to around one fifth of the country’s population of 100 million. And in the UAE, Filipinos make up around six per cent of the population.
A Dubai-based expat, Joey Brumeda, studied in Marawi from the late 90s. “People are peaceful citizens there and they don’t condone violence,” he said.
He still has family in the city, who live just 15 minutes away from where clashes between militants and the army have taken place.
“The military forces are there, the SWAT teams are there,” he said. “They are very seldom on Facbeook, because everything there is shut down, such as electricity and internet.”
“On the ground right now, there’s a lot of uncertainty. The problem right now is that the residents are so scared of these rebels. These people will reach out up until your third generation of family, just to reach out and kill you.”
Brumeda was just seven years old when Marcos — facing the collapse of his regime — declared martial law.
“It was very secure, if you followed the law,” he recalled.
“There will be abuses for sure, but if it’s under control, I would not be worried.”
“My deepest sympathies are always to Marwari. Just follow the law, and I know that the president is doing the best that he can to fix the country.”
Last May, Duterte won by a large lead over four other candidates, with a fiery campaign where he promised to lead a bloody war on crime.
Another Mindanaoan, who hails from Davao — the island’s largest city where Duterte made his career as mayor — said that he was not worried by the introduction of martial law back home.
“They [fellow Filipinos] have confidence in our president, and what he’s doing,” said the Dubai-based expat, who only gave his first name, Jong.
“Because he has a track record in Davao, and people see his sincerity … there is no abuse of authority with Duterte.”
“Declaring martial law is good for the benefit of the people in my place,” said Joselito Olaivar, an Abu Dhabi-based expat who hails from Cagayan de Oro, a city in northern Mindanao.
“It’s one way of controlling the situation and securing from terrorism attack like this,” he added.
“Though it is only of a 60 days duration, I wish the entire Philippines be brought under martial law.
“Filipinos like me should be disciplined so that the country itself will prosper.”
Another Mindanaoan who now lives in Dubai said that she is choosing to stay positive.
“As a citizen of Philippines, I am hoping for the best,” said Cheryl Salem Dollano.
“Some group of Filipinos are pulling the government down.”