Stigma of Marcos-era martial law remains, but SF prayer rallyists back Duterte’s
Muslim Stan Ali, who is married to a Filipina, personally felt that there was synergy among Muslims and Christians he met in Mindanao when he was there in 2014. INQUIRER/Jun Nucum
SAN FRANCISCO — Despite getting wide support among residents of Mindanao, of Martial Law still triggers worry among Bay Area Filipino Americans who experienced it from 1972 to 1986 the under then-President Ferdinand Marcos.
This was evident among some of the participants of the “Interfaith Prayer Rally for Peace in the Philippines” sponsored by Digong Duterte Supporters of Northern California (DDS-NorCal) held at the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco.
Teresa Opaon-Ali, a Muslim from Davao City who used to be a community theater organizer with a nonprofit group, remembered that she ran the risked of being picked up and arrested under the Marcos regime.
“Before, they could just frisk and arrest you and you could not say anything lest you be branded (a communist). I had a brother who died during the Marcos Martial Law and there is pain in me at the mere mention of Martial Law,” Opaon sadly recalled. “I also had a lot of friends who were jailed, tortured and suffered during those days. It was painful and personally I don’t want that to happen again.”
Opaon-Ali also felt it her duty as a Filipino to show compatriots Filipinos abroad are also thinking of them by joining the interfaith rally. As a graduate from the Mindanao State University in Iligan City, she also inferred that the fighting in Marawi is something very deep and personal to her as as Mindanaoan.
However, positive reports from loved ones on what is actually happening in Mindanao, have made Opaon-Ali to have a change of heart about Martial Law as it is being implemented.
“I heard from them that now Martial Law is no longer what it used to be. There is now a big difference from the soldiers who were likely to arrest anyone for flimsy reasons during the 1970s Martial Law to what the troops are now. My loved ones support Martial Law at present,” Opaon-Ali disclosed. “I believe that President Duterte’s hands are tied and it was a must for him to declare Martial Law in Mindanao.
Opaon-Ali also doesn’t think President Duterte will declare Martial Law for the whole country if it is not necessary.
“Times have changed as terrorists are now in the country. I know that President Duterte has a good heart and will do his best. He hates injustice, oppression and corruption. I know that what he is doing is for the best of the country,” remarked Opaon-Ali.
Prayer rally organizer Reynaldo Aralar disclosed that they tried to avoid addressing the issue of martial law when they organized the prayer rally.
“I was also there during the Marcos Martial Law years, but I heard from my family in the Philippines that there is now a big difference,” Aralar underscored. “The stigma of brought about by it stays and rather than addressing the issue that may even worsen the division among Filipinos, we decided to have peace in Marawi, in Mindanao and the Philippines as our focus, our theme as it is time for us to heal to hopefully achieve unity,” Aralar stated.
“A lot people, especially those not from Mindanao, are saying that they are against Martial Law. But if you ask those from Mindanao, they really are in favor of Martial Law as they have policemen and soldiers right there driving the terrorists out, which is a good sign,” Aralar said.
“It may also be possible that Martial Law will be declared for the whole country as well as anything is possible. But at this point I don’t see that as necessary. The issue of terrorism in Mindanao is being contained and I see that going away very soon. The military has been given a deadline to eradicate that threat. With reports saying that only 10 percent of the terrorists remain, it is just a matter of time before law and order is basically restored.”
Another participant, Jane Tan-Ali, a Christian from Pittsburg, California and originally from Davao admitted getting scared for their families when she first heard of what happened in Marawi and even more when Martial Law was declared.
“But when we checked with our families, we were happy to know that the declaration made them feel safer that made them support Martial Law. For them, the declaration was the way to handle the situation and to isolate the problem in Marawi. The presence of the police and the military made them things feel that things have somehow normalized,” reasoned Tan-Ali.
“Personally, I support the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao because of the presence of thinly-spread out forces supportive of the attackers. To isolate the problem, it has to be declared throughout Mindanao.”
Tan-Ali also regarded the interfaith rally as very urgent and timely because of the extremism not only in Marawi, but also in many parts of the world like Manchester and London.
Aralar said that DDS decided to partner with the Consulate for the prayer rally to reach out to various faiths.
The interfaith prayer rally was held largely with a Holy Mass with Catholic priest Fr. Freddie Thomas as main celebrant. In attendance were Family of Church Pastor Randy Gayares and Engineer Stan Ali, a Muslim, together with members of different religious faiths.
In his homily, Fr. Thomas urged everyone to pray for all brothers and sisters regardless of faith and for peace in the world.
“Just before His death, Jesus ask the Father to forgive His persecutors for they know not what they are doing. Honestly even those people who are killing and who have hatred, they do not know what they are doing so we have to continue praying for them not just for our people who are victims but also for those who do not know what they are doing,” Fr. Thomas exhorted.
After the mass, participants lit small candles to show their solidarity with the people in Mindanao
After lighting his candle, Filipino Pastor Gayares wished for peace in the Philippines and in praying for it, implored the participants to come in humility to make peace possible. Gayares also prayed that the hearts of the people, the soldiers and even the rebels would be touched.
Representing the Muslims with a prayer was Stan Ali, husband of Teresa Opaon-Ali, who grew up with a Catholic mother and a Muslim father
“I had a chance to stay in Davao in 2014 and be with nice, special people there that it hurts to hear what is going on in Mindanao. I felt that there was synergy with the people that I have met both Muslims and Christians. And despite the news about Abu Sayyaf wreaking havoc, a lot of community leaders of different faiths were still trying to work together. I am saddened and disheartened with what is going on right now; when I was there I was a very peaceful place,” Ali recounted.
He endorsed the interfaith prayer rally as something that should be held more often for if people with differing ideas gets together more often, the friction between them gets reduced even more.
“Islam, in general talks, about being kind to your neighbor, being generous to the people around. Unfortunately, what is talked about mostly about Islam is about violence which is unfortunate. There is a perverted interpretation of what Islam, a peaceful religion, is. That is why I do not understand why some of the Muslim leaders in the Philippines would ask their followers to inflict harm on ordinary people and even on people of the same faith,” Ali lamented.