Bunye: Martial law: then and now

Atty. Ignacio R. Bunye

BASED on what I read in the papers and what I hear on air, I get the feeling that the greater majority of our population currently support President Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

Why the marked difference in public perception between Martial Law 1972 and Martial Law 2017?

For one, the reason for the latter’s proclamation is quite obvious. At least, to the men on the streets the justification is fully understandable.

A group of heavily armed men, inspired by a foreign ideology, have taken over a significant area of Marawi City with the clear intent of separating it from Philipine territory. That, to the layman, justifies Duterte’s declaration.

Vice President Leni Robredo has indicated her willingness to give Duterte the benefit of the doubt. The business community, not seeing any appreciable effect on growth prospects, also appears generally supportive.

The 1972 version was premised on a perceived NPA threat. But Marcos’ martial law planners still needed to fake an ambush of then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile to make the threat more credible.

In the present case, Duterte was upfront in his declaration. Without even waiting to land in the Philippines (he was still in Russia on a state visit), Duterte signed Proclamation 217 which took effect immediately.

Not so in 1972. The announcement of martial law came four days after the fact. And not before Marcos used “shock and awe” to crush any possible dissent. Radio and television suddenly went off the air. Newspaper offices were shut down. Hundreds of known opposition leaders, journalists and student activists were arrested and incarcerated in temporary jails.

So far (knock on wood), none of those has happened. Any violations of human rights in the area of conflict appear to have been perpetrated by the hostile groups.

After 1935 but before 1972, martial law was still unexplored territory, giving Marcos so much leeway in its implementation. The 1987 Constitution took care of that:

1. The declaration of martial law may be revoked any time by a joint declaration of both houses of Congress.

2. The declaration may not last more than 60 days. Any extension must be approved by Congress.

3. The Supreme Court may also look into the factual basis for the declaration.

That said, the post-1987 declarations (including the short-lived martial law declared by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the wake of the Maguindanao Massacre) did not meet with any public outcry.

To date, the only violations committed by this administration appear to be those against decency.

Duterte’s rape jokes and alleged instructions to troops practically to disregard the laws (with promises of impunity) are certainly in bad taste.

Masyadong madaldal, according to arch critic Rene Saguisag.

But then, even Duterte has admitted that only two out of five of his public statements are true. The rest are just wisecracks.

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