Mindanao tourists: What martial law?

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By Perseus Echeminada

LAGUINDINGAN AIRPORT, Misamis Oriental – Foreign visitors arriving here usually expect to see elements of an area under martial law – soldiers in full battle gear and even tanks.

Why not considering the news that grabbed international attention with the capture by Muslim extremists of Marawi City and its recapture by government forces?

“Where are the tanks and soldiers? Mindanao is supposed to be under martial law” a foreign tourist asked this reporter, referring to President Rodrigo Duterte putting the whole of Mindanao under military rule.

Many foreign tourists have expressed relief that they only see taxi drivers and dispatchers of shuttle buses outside the airport, with a few policemen and security guards on duty.

While there were checkpoints here there, there were hardly combat-ready soldiers on sight. One checkpoint in El Salvador check the identification documents of travellers to Cagayan de Oro but no frisking were done.

Martial law in Mindanao has practically sent organized criminal groups out of their lairs to the hinterlands after the liberation of Marawi, according to police and military officers the Daily Tribune talked with.

“Terrorists and other armed and criminal groups were held at bay in their mountains hideouts by police and military forces who have kept watch on their movements,” one officer said.

The President’s order has, however, imposed discipline on people who now stay in their homes after 10 p.m. because of curfew imposed by local government units (LGU).

“No more karaoke singing (as) people stay at home after 10 p.m.” a businessman told the Daily Tribune.

But the war on illegal drugs and terrorists declared by President Duterte continue to hogged headlines of local radio stations and tabloids in the island.

“Martial law is now taking its toll on the enemies of state while winning the hearts and mind of peace loving people in Mindanao,” said a resident.

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