Just recently, President Rodrigo Duterte declared Martial Law (ML) over Mindanao. This came in the wake of an attack on Marawi City, Lanao del Sur by members of the Maute Group. This group has been labeled as a terrorist organization allegedly with ties to the transnational terrorist group Islamic State for Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Miiltary operations are still ongoing though it is reported that the terrorists are either dead or captured, or driven off.
As soon as the President made the declaration, several sectors are up in arms, criticizing the declaration of ML. Their reasons range from being unnecessary to reliving the horrors of the Marcos Regime.
The President’s decision is supported by the provision in the 1987 Constitution. According to Article VII, 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.”
The phrase “for a period not exceeding sixty days” was put there as a safeguard to ensure ML would not be abused. It can be further inferred that despite the horrible experience of the past, the framers of the 1987 Constitution saw it was still necessary to grant the President this power in extraordinary circumstances such as this one. They also figure that 60 days is adequate enough to address whatever these threats are.
Also during this period, the Philippine National Police (PNP) suspended all permits to carry firearms outside of residences. If there is any justification in this ruling, this is to protect the public from any mis-encounters (lest they be mistaken for insurgents). At the same time, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) wants the public to trust them as they battle the terrorists. They are aware of the Constitution and they know the traumatic history of some people. The AFP assured the public they are completely different and they should not live in the past.
Despite the criticisms and protests, most people in Mindanao welcome ML. They chided especially those in the National Capital Region in their apparent detachment or lack of empathy on their situation. Several of them have lived through violence and claim it has galvanized them. They chose not to be afraid or let terrorism make them live in fear. They assert they are in a better position to know what is best for them.
Furthermore, they also know of the horrible past and these promises of “never again.” Just because they welcome ML does not mean they are denying the past. They will ensure it will not be repeated.
As of the moment, it is early to tell if President Duterte made the right decision to declare Martial Law. Only history can ultimately determine that.
Featured Image Source: GMA Network