Martial Law throughout the country is coming

To Take A Stand
Oscar P. Lagman, Jr.

Posted on May 30, 2017

“Change is coming,” Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte promised when he was running for president. He vowed to do for the entire country what he had done for Davao city. “I promise you I will get down and dirty just to get things done. I will do it for the Filipino people,” he vowed. His campaign symbol was a clenched fist, not raised in the traditional depiction of defiance of the Establishment, but extended forward like a cobra ready to inflict its deathly sting on whatever perturbs it. The business leaders and the residents of Davao City affirmed that whatever Mayor Duterte said he would do for Davao City, he had done.

The promise of rolling out nationally his clenched-fist law and order policies in Davao City captivated millions of Filipinos who must have been feeling unsafe not only in the streets but in their own homes, dismissing his uncouth ways, foul language, and his admiration for the dictator Ferdinand Marcos as immaterial and irrelevant. More than 16 million voters voted for Mayor Duterte as president, the most any presidential candidate had garnered. Congress, by virtue of Philippine election laws, proclaimed Rodrigo Duterte the elected president of the Philippines.

“The Filipino people have given me the mandate to implement my reform program,” he said after he was proclaimed president-elect. If his reform program is blocked, he said he would abolish Congress and declare a revolutionary government. “I decide alone,” he emphasized.

Change indeed has come, initially in presidential demeanor, language, and sartorial style, subsequently in mode of governance and in state policies. In contrast to past presidents, President Duterte’s demeanor is crass, his language repugnant, his sartorial style plebeian. His mode of governance is authoritarian, his domestic policies blatantly populist, his foreign policies hostile towards the Western democracies and cozy towards Communist China and Russia.

He runs the country according to his style, or as he put it “according to my specifications.” He brooks no check on his presidency and he detests opposition to the way he runs the country. He threatened to declare Martial Law if Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno continues to defy his directives to judges linked to drug traffickers.

As he had promised during the campaign, he declared war against all those involved in the trade of illegal drugs immediately after he was sworn in. More than 7,000 illegal drug users and dealers have been killed by the police and vigilantes.

In September last year, President Duterte declared a “state of lawlessness” in the country following an explosion at a night market in Davao City that killed at least 14 people and wounded more than 60. “I am declaring now a state of lawlessness. It is not Martial Law,” the President clarified. “These are extraordinary times. There is a crisis in this country involving drugs, extrajudicial killings, and there seems to be environment of lawlessness, lawless violence. I am inviting now the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the military and the police to run the country in accordance with my specifications,” he clarified.

What the Constitution refers to when military rule is called upon is “lawless violence,” not lawlessness. What occurred in Davao City was lawless violence. That justified the President’s call for the military and the police to run the city but not the whole country even if lawlessness has overrun it.

Later that month, he told the Filipino community in Hanoi that he would end the joint military exercise between the Philippines and the United States. Duterte said: “I will serve notice to you (referring to the US) now, this will be the last military exercise.” Addressing Chinese and Filipino businessmen during his trip to Beijing, he said: “I announce my separation from the United States, both in military... but economics also.” He also said: “I have realigned myself in your ideological flow and maybe I will... talk to Putin and tell him there are three of us against the world.”

The latest polls conducted by Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia give the President a very good rating. He got a 75% satisfaction rating in the latest Social Weather Stations poll and a 76% trust rating in the last Pulse Asia survey.

The ardent endorsement of President Duterte’s reform program by both Houses of Congress, the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold his order to bury the remains of Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, and the people’s approval of his governance have given him excessive pride and confidence to the point of arrogance.

On May 23 he declared Martial Law over the whole of Mindanao after government forces clashed with Maute group terrorists who entered Marawi City at the instance of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon. According to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the Islamic State-linked Maute group occupied the city hall, a hospital, and part of the Mindanao State University compound and burned down the city jail, a Catholic church, and two schools. The declaration covered all of Mindanao because security problems also exist in Sulu, the Zamboanga peninsula, Central Mindanao, and the Davao region.

The leaders of both Houses of Congress, who are both from Mindanao, speak favorably of the President’s declaration of Martial Law over the entire southern island.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III urged the public to understand the Martial Law declaration in Mindanao, saying “extra measures” were necessary to neutralize terrorists in the region who could claim more lives, as well as to suppress lawless violence and rebellion. Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said that what the President did was right as there is really disorder happening in Mindanao.

Lawmakers from Mindanao have thrown their support of Martial Law in their region. The island’s business sector also welcomed the President’s declaration. Independent columnists in mainstream media implicitly approve of the President’s order.

Fortified by the general acceptance of his bold action, the President has intimated that he is considering declaring Martial Law in the Visayas also as terrorists can easily slip into Mindanao’s neighboring islands and that Martial Law can be expanded to the whole country if terrorists are found to be operating in Luzon as well.

The Constitution requires Congress to approve the President’s declaration of martial and limits military rule to 60 days. If the President wants to extend it beyond 60 days, he again must get congressional approval. But last Saturday, President Duterte told soldiers in Jolo, “Until the police and the Armed Forces say the Philippines is safe, this Martial Law will continue. I will not listen to others. The Supreme Court justices, the congressmen, they are not here.”

As the president, Mr. Duterte is the supreme authority over the police force and the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces. He has the final say as to the safety of the entire country from terrorists.

“I decide alone,” he declared upon his proclamation by Congress as president-elect. The business leaders and the residents of Davao City say that whatever Mayor Duterte said he would do he had done.

So, Martial Law throughout the country is coming.

Oscar P. Lagman, Jr. is a member of Manindigan! a cause-oriented group of businessmen, professionals, and academics.