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BREAKING NEWS:Exorcising the martial law boogeyman

Read statement on PRRD’s Martial Law Remarks before the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Issued by PCOO,

      The President has categorically said no to martial law. He even made a pronouncement saying that martial law did not improve the lives of the Filipinos. We therefore decry the latest misreporting that the President will declare martial law simply “if he wants to” or that “no one can stop the President from declaring martial law.” Such headlines sow panic and confusion to many. We consider this kind of reportage as the height of journalistic irresponsibility.

The President’s remarks before the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry are clear. He mentioned declaring martial law only under the premise that the country has deteriorated into an utter state of rebellion and lawlessness. As President, he recognizes the challenges and limitations set by our Constitution in declaring martial law but he would nonetheless act accordingly if it warrants the preservation of the nation.


Let’s talk martial law. The mere mention of the term flips a psychological switch that floods many listeners with associations. Military abuses. Marcos. Suffering. Violence. Curfew. Desparecidos.

However, it is imperative that the public know. There is “martial law” that describes a period in Philippine history, specifically 1972-1981. It is said to be characterized by a suppression of rights, massive corruption in government and rampant abuse of human rights by constabulary and military alike.

Then there is “martial law” that is a constitutionally provided mechanism for protecting the state. I will repeat the important words. Constitutional. Protecting. The State.

Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in September 1972 by virtue of Proclamation 1081 and under the 1935 constitution which states simply:

Art VII. Sec. 11. (2) The President shall be commander-in-chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and, whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion, insurrection, or rebellion, or imminent danger thereof, when the public safety requires it, he may suspend the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus, or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law.


Compare this with the 1987 constitution:

Art VII Sec. 18. SECTION 18. The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion. In case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he may, for a period not exceeding sixty days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law. Within forty-eight hours from the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, the President shall submit a report in person or in writing to the Congress. The Congress, voting jointly, by a vote of at least a majority of all its Members in regular or special session, may revoke such proclamation or suspension, which revocation shall not be set aside by the President. Upon the initiative of the President, the Congress may, in the same manner, extend such proclamation or suspension for a period to be determined by the Congress, if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it.

The Congress, if not in session, shall, within twenty-four hours following such proclamation or suspension, convene in accordance with its rules without any need of a call.

The Supreme Court may review, in an appropriate proceeding filed by any citizen, the sufficiency of the factual basis of the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ or the extension thereof, and must promulgate its decision thereon within thirty days from its filing.

A state of martial law 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.

The suspension of the privilege of the writ 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.

The changes in the provisions were instituted pursuant to the experience of the Marcos martial law years. Should the conditions be present, as President Duterte has prefaced his statement, then he says, he will declare martial law.


BUT, this Digong declared martial law will not be the same as that Marcos declared. There are more requirements. There is a shorter period. There are the interventions by the House and the judiciary. The former can extend or shorten the period. The Supreme Court can determine if there is factual basis for declaration. There is even that strange provision that the privilege of the writ may be suspended but only for the judicially charged. The writ, usually cannot be issued for those judicially charged.

The reason for the reactions however are clear. The mention of martial law is associated with the Period of Marcos rule, and not as a constitutional means of state self-defense. In fact, a cursory glance at some of the comments, is that whenever anyone posits a view that martial law is not to be feared, it is instantly accused of “rationalization.”

President Duterte’s invocation of the power to declare martial law, while understandably disturbing due to its associations with an abusive and corrupt regime, remains subject to constitutional processes—processes that are far more stringent and replete with safeguards to limit state power. It does not necessarily herald a period of abuses. It is subject to stringent requirements. It is, if complied with in accordance with the prescriptions, a legal means of preserving the state.

by Trixie Cruz Angeles



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