Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 27 May 1954


Reader, there have been so many discussions in the print and broadcast media about the pros and cons of imposing martial law in Mindanao, especially the legal and constitutional aspects.  I leave it to the lawyers to discuss these, but I do have an opinion on related matters to share with you, not necessarily in the order of importance.

First, on whether martial law is the answer:

  1. I beg to differ with President Duterte’s assessment that martial law under the dictator Ferdinand Marcos was “good”. The economy collapsed, crime went up, real wages went down, corruption became world-class, extrajudicial killings were at their highest (until this administration). Not to mention torture and disappearances. If that is good, I don’t know what bad is.
  1. Marcos’ martial law failed to address the peace and order problems that were the articulated reasons for its declaration—as evidenced by the fact that the communist and the Moro problems are still with us today. On this basis alone, how can Marcos’ martial law be considered “good”?
  1. Mr. Duterte says his martial law will be harsh. But the 1987 Constitution has safeguards against martial law, because we learned from the Marcos experience. That means Marcos’ martial law was measurably harsher. And it did not succeed.

Next, let’s tackle the question of whether the Islamic State threat is real (the reason President Duterte hurried back—to save the Filipino people from this threat).

  1. There can be no doubt that the threat is real. Maria Ressa, who has written two books on terrorism—Seeds of Terror: An Eyewitness Account of Al-Qaeda’s Newest Center of Operations in Southeast Asia in 2003 and From Bin Laden to Facebook in 2013—has been pointing out the Filipino connections to the terrorist networks and hoisting the red danger flags for years.
  1. Then there is the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, with Dr. Rommel Banlaoi as executive director and former chief superintendent and top intelligence officer Rodolfo “Boogie” Mendoza as president, who also have been pointing at the dangers, especially since 2012.
  1. So why did the government not take notice? Well, Reader, you have to admit that when President Duterte left for Russia, he had in tow both the AFP chief of staff, Gen. Eduardo Año, and the PNP chief, Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa. Obviously, they thought everything was well in hand, and the so-called crisis caught them by surprise. Otherwise, there would have been complete staff work on its implementation at the ready.
  1. Problem of intelligence? Oh, I think the intelligence was there. But I also think that the police and the military are not properly coordinated, and the intelligence people have difficulty communicating with the leadership. Then there is the political problem: When a new dispensation comes in, says Banlaoi, it has to have its “katropa” along. So add to kaibigan, kaklase, kabarilan this new sign of power: katropa. If you are not katropa, your memos don’t mean a thing. Finally, there is the possibility that the war on drugs put the war on terror a far second, at least for the police.

But, dear Reader, the legislative branch seems to have its problems, too.

The  1987 Constitution is very clear that within 24 hours following a proclamation (of martial law) or a suspension (of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus), Congress shall convene, without need of a call.  This was included in the Constitution to make sure that what Marcos did—i.e., close the doors of Congress to prevent a meeting—would never happen. But now Congress, as a sign of its “trust” in the President (notably  Senators Sotto and Ejercito, Speaker Alvarez, Senate President Pimentel) and forgetting the system of checks and balances in our democracy, seems prepared to accept his action, even without convening or an explanation.

So what do we have?  An executive and a rubber-stamp legislature with problems on upholding the rule of law?

The Supreme Court, our last bastion: no rubber stamp, we hope.