Category: martial law

Requiem for separation of powers

Ernesto P. Maceda, Jr.

Yes, Congress chose not to convene in joint session. There are arguments to be made for standing behind the President and presenting a united front in times as grave as these. But so many wish that they would have done the joint session – if only to justify Congress’ continued raison d’etre.

We know the central institutional feature of the Constitution to be separation of powers. This means limited government. It would prevent a single branch from consolidating strength to act tyranically. The best protection was the interest of each branch in jealously defending its prerogatives. That is what the framers naturally assumed.  Read on…

The soldier in Martial Law

Amelia H. C. Ylagan

He is the namesake of his late father, who was an officer like him, as he, the son, is now as old as his father was then. When did he become so like his father, those who saw him growing up in Fort Bonifacio ask? Men reared in the Courage, Loyalty and Integrity of the Philippine Military Academy, a generation apart but with the same awareness of their solemn pledge as commissioned officers to serve the country and its people. There are many fathers and sons (and now daughters), and close relations who serve or have served in the military, as a family tradition to be honored by passing the baton in patriotic service.

But the heirs to the dignity and respect earned by their fathers in the military might have never thought that they would still have to go through harsh testing of ethics and conflicted loyalties in yet another thrusting into Martial Law, after the victorious EDSA People Power Revolution that toppled the Marcos dictatorship and brought democracy back in 1986. For Rodrigo R. Duterte has opted to be Commander in Chief of the military over his civilian role as President for the people, in the reversal of the normalcy of civilian rule over military rule, when he declared Martial Law in Mindanao (only there, so far) on May 24.

The day before, fighting in Marawi City “erupted after security forces raided a safe house where they believed Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the infamous Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for-ransom gang and Philippine head of IS, was hiding” (AFP 05.27.2017). Hapilon has a $5-million bounty on his head from the US. “The raid went spectacularly wrong as dozens of gunmen emerged to repel the security forces, then tore across the city while flying black IS flags” (Ibid.) Another botched military operation? Like the botched Mamasapano operation in January 2015 to capture the “Osama Bin Laden of Asia,” Zulkifli Abdhir alias Marwan, for a $6-million bounty? Forty-four Special Action Forces men were killed in that encounter.

In the Marawi encounter, the militants who retaliated by burning buildings and holding innocent civilians captive belonged to the Maute group (estimated 263-strong) that has emerged only in recent years in Mindanao and gained strength on the proceeds of drug money, Duterte said in his report released Friday to Congress to justify Martial Law (Ibid.). At least 44 people have died in the fighting, including 31 militants and 11 soldiers, officials said Thursday. The violence has forced thousands of people to flee and raised fears of growing extremism in the country (AP 05.26.2017).

“To my countrymen who have experienced Martial Law: it would not be any different from what President Marcos did. I’d be harsh,” Duterte announced. “If it would take a year to do it then we’ll do it. If it’s over with a month, then I’d be happy. To my countrymen, do not be too scared,” said Duterte, a native of Mindanao (Reuters 05.23.2017). He said he would consider some security measures in the central Visayas region next to Mindanao to facilitate arrests, and could even declare Martial Law nationwide (Newsweek 05.25.2017). To those now even more scared, Duterte said: “Martial law of Mr. Marcos was very good” (Nikkei Asian Review 05.25.2017). Whatever happened to “Never Again”? (“Marcos Martial Law: Never Again” by Raissa Robles)

Former President Fidel V. Ramos, leader of the military component of the EDSA Revolution, said Friday that Martial Law across Mindanao was not justified, and called for it to be quickly revoked (Newsweek op. cit.). Christian Monsod, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, had said in various media interviews that the situation in Marawi City does not qualify as rebellion, as basis for declaring Martial Law (Rappler 05.25.2017). The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, a group of human rights attorneys, called it “a sledgehammer, knee-jerk reaction” that would “open the flood gates for unbridled human rights violations” (Reuters op. cit.).

Duterte said Martial Law would mean checkpoints and arrests and searches without warrant, and it would go on for as long as necessary (Newsweek op.cit.). “Anyone now holding a gun, confronting government with violence, my orders are spare no one, let us solve the problems of Mindanao once and for all,” he said. “If I think you should die, you will die. If you fight us, you will die. If there’s an open defiance, you will die, and if it means many people dying, so be it. That’s how it is.” (Ibid.)

In pep talks to troops, Duterte warned soldiers and operatives of Martial Law not to commit abuses, specially human rights offenses. “The consequences of Martial Law and the ramifications of Martial Law, I and I alone would be responsible. Just do your jobs, I’ll take care of the rest,” he said in Iligan City, where most Marawi residents fled (CNN 05.27.2017). But in total contradiction, he added a crude joke, “If you rape three people, I will admit that I did it” (Ibid.). How is the soldier to think, behave and act, in the conflicted order of battle in Martial Law?

The soldier is perhaps the worst-fated casualty of Martial Law. Though trained to protect and preserve peace for fellowmen, he is stripped by the same authority ingrained in himself and in his leaders that told him not to hurt others — now to exact obedience and compliance from others with whatever it takes. The soldier, within his rank and immediate situation exercises near-absolute power over civilians who before were his protected “family” in the country that all together call home. Indeed it is a bitter prescription for near-irreversible schizophrenia that Martial Law would impose this split-personality upon the soldier, as he moves from democratic civilian-rule-over-military, to Martial Law’s military-rule-over-civilian and back again to the former.

We weep for the unfairness to our soldiers for the conflict in them, in their honest passion to serve the people. We thank the many generations of soldiers who have zealously adhered to their death, to the values and principles of integrity and respect for human rights. And we pray for those in the military who succumb to the temptations of power and influence in Martial Law.

monica feria (1954-2016)

Sept. 22-23, 1972: Our lives changed overnight

That whole week before Sept. 22, 1972, the University of the Philippines was aflame with rallies and teach-ins. Opposition leader Ninoy Aquino had warned that the declaration of martial law was imminent. Midweek, up to 30 busloads of students had been mobilized for a civil liberties rally at Plaza Miranda.

Read on…

When a leader betrays his people

Rex D. Lores

… What is deeply disturbing about President Duterte’s decision is the clear disconnect between his rhetoric and reality. On one hand, he is pursuing a devastating campaign against criminality and corruption; on the other, he is coddling the memory of a tyrant whose crimes and corruption stagger our imagination.

On one hand, he is attacking oligarchs who accumulated wealth over decades; on the other, he is praising a discredited leader who became the country’s greatest oligarch overnight by illegally seizing the assets of the elite.

Marcos’ rise to power started with a lie, and he prevailed for so long through the legislative and executive branches of government largely on his capacity to manipulate or conceal the truth. It started with his claims of heroic exploits as a soldier in World War II, claims found fraudulent and without a scintilla of evidence in US Army archives.

Employing these improbable claims, he captured the central seat of power. Thus, the disingenuous argument goes, Marcos is qualified to rest with our heroes. The trouble with this argument is that, bereft of moral reasoning, it is blind to the infinite harm Marcos inflicted on the social fabric.

It smirks at the historical truth: Marcos’ wanton violation of the Constitution, the brutality of his regime, the astronomical external debt he incurred, the collapse of our economy, and the stunning wealth he stole to become the world’s second most corrupt leader of all time.

As flagrant and unconscionable as these atrocities may be, they were not the worst. The most damning was that Marcos derailed the hopes and aspirations of at least three generations of Filipinos, deepening our despair and our desperation.

Death cannot be a cleansing sacrament to alter Marcos’ sordid and bloody legacy. The impunity of Marcos’ long despotic rule will burden our sense of national dignity for generations to come. And how we reckon with this design to rehabilitate Marcos as a national hero has enormous implications on our values as a people, on the nature of our future, and on the efficacy of our political culture.

To bury Marcos in the heroes’ cemetery mocks the valor, dignity, and sacrifice of martyred Filipinos. But even more, it mocks our national esteem and our shared civic values as a democratic society.