Is Martial Law the Answer?

Is Martial Law the Answer?

ON May 23, 2017, while on a state visit to Russia, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte signed Proclamation No. 216 declaring martial law in Mindanao. Earlier that day, the Muslim extremists Maute Group were hoisting, flying and waving in several areas of Marawi City, in Lanao del Sur, the flags of foreign terrorist organization ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). The incident caused the loss of many innocent lives, burning of homes, government and private facilities and buildings, taking over a hospital and establishing several check points within the City. They inflicted casualties on the part of government forces and private sector, causing thousands of residents to flee the area. The Proclamation stated that aside from the existence of sedition and rebellion, there was a series of violent acts committed by the Maute terrorist group such as the attack on the military outpost in Butig, Lanao del Sur in February 2016, killing and wounding several soldiers, and the mass jailbreak in Marawi City in August 2016, freeing their arrested comrades and other detainees.”

Bishop Edwin dela Peňa of the Prelature of Marawi stated that the Maute Group forced their way to the Cathedral of Our Lady Help of Christians, burned the Cathedral and the Bishop’s Residence, took hostage of Fr. Teresito “Chito” Suganob (Vicar General of Marawi), the church staff and church goers, who were then attending the Novena Mass preparatory to the celebration of the feast of their patron saint, and used them as human shields.


Article VII, Section 18 of the 1987 Constitution authorizes the President, as the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines, to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law, for a period not exceeding 60 days. He may call the armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion. The present Constitution protects the citizens from abuses of martial law. Those provisions are not present in the 1971 Constitution, the basis of Proclamation 1081, Martial Law Circa 1972.

Was there invasion or rebellion? Yes. Invasion is a military offensive in which combatants of one geopolitical entity aggressively enter a territory controlled by another entity with the objective of either conquering, liberating or reestablishing control or authority over a territory forcing the partition of a country, altering the established government. Yes, there is also rebellion. Sections 134 and 135 of The Revised Penal Code provide that there is rebellion when: there is public uprising, taking arms against the government for the purpose of removing allegiance to the government the territory of the Philippines, or depriving the Chief Executive or Legislature any or their powers and prerogative, destroying property or committing serious violence. Malacaňang disclosed that there were foreigners who were killed in the encounter. News reports alleged that the Maute Group is now joined by other unlawful elements like Abu Sayaf, Bangsamoro, etc.

The 1987 Constitution puts a limit to the authority of the President: (1) Martial law shall not exceed 60 days; (2) Within 48 hours, the proclamation should be transmitted to Congress; (3) If not in session, Congress shall, within 24 hours following such proclamation or suspension, convene in accordance with its rules without any need of a call. (4) Congress, voting jointly, by a majority vote of all its Members in regular or special session, may revoke such proclamation or suspension; (5) The Supreme Court may review the proclamation in an appropriate proceedings filed by any citizen, and must promulgate its decision within 30 days from filing. (6) Upon the initiative of the President, Congress may extend such proclamation or suspension for a period to be determined by Congress, if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it.

Another limitation is that it does not suspend the operation of the Constitution, nor supplant the functioning of the civil courts or legislative assemblies, nor authorize the conferment of jurisdiction on military courts and agencies over civilians where civil courts are able to function, nor automatically suspend the privilege of the writ which shall apply only to persons judicially charged for rebellion or offenses inherent in or directly connected with the invasion. During the suspension of the privilege of the writ, any person thus arrested or detained shall be judicially charged within three days, otherwise he shall be released.


Is Martial Law really the Answer? Many agrees and justifies the declaration of martial law in Mindanao; others disagree, fearing for another Marcos Martial Law. As citizens of this country, we are not privy to intelligence reports and classified information. Only the Office of the President and the Armed Forces of the Philippines have accessed to such data. We may not see what they see; we may not know what they know. I therefore submit to the Statement of the Mindanao Bishops led by His Eminence Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, O.M.I., Archbishop of Cotabato. Next to the President and the military, the Mindanao Bishops are literally on the forefront and know what it is happening in the grounds. Our Mindanao Bishops said: “The answers to many questions are speculative. We have many fears. But at present we simply do not have solid and sufficient facts to absolutely reject the declaration of Martial Law as morally reprehensible. But we (are) certainly agreed that Martial Law must be temporary.”

Let us therefore be calm but let us not be complacent. Let us be ready to condemn abuses but let us respect the authorities. Let us pray that the government will be able to suppress terrorism and rebellion so that Martial Law may be lifted the soonest time possible, for the good of everyone. Let us be vigilant but let us not forget to pray for peace not only in Marawi City and Mindanao but also in the whole Philippines. Our Mindanao Bishops urge us: “Together let us pursue what leads to peace. Let us pray for peace and work for peace.”

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