People were half expecting it, and we have always shouted “Never Again!” in response to these threats. And now, President Duterte has made good his threat of declaring martial law in Mindanao and hinted that he is willing to declare it nationwide.
Since August 2016, or a little more than a month into his term, President Duterte talked about declaring martial law 35 times, according to a count by Interaksyon.com. To say that this is extraordinary for a Philippine president and quite alarming is an understatement. It showed his strong inclination to declare it. He has threatened to declare it when people criticized the way he has been running his anti-drug war; when there was a bombing; when the Maute group escalated its armed attacks, just like recently when the group attacked Marawi City, Tuesday May 23.
President Duterte even made no qualms about how martial law would be implemented in Mindanao: “Martial law is martial law ha. It will not be any different from what the president, Marcos did. I’d be harsh.”
And judging by how his anti-drug war is being implemented, when supposedly the rule of law is in place, and by how he made no secret of his admiration for the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. – even to the extent of facilitating his burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in the face of widespread protests against it – these are not mere rhetoric. Even when he was Davao City mayor, Duterte had already shown his proclivity for harshness and violence.
What is wrong with the declaration of martial law in Mindanao when the Maute group did attack Marawi City with more than a hundred members, burned a school, the city jail and the Cathedral of Our Lady Help of Christians, and took hostages, including Fr. Chito Suganob, the parish church secretary, parish council president, and several parishioners?
Well, these acts are clearly condemnable. But isn’t it that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) already has a standing order from the President to run after and destroy these groups, which included the Maute group and the Abu Sayyaf? The President even ordered the AFP to use all the resources at its disposal, including newly acquired jets, in running after these groups. Hasn’t the military been doing just that?
It is also common knowledge in rural areas that when the AFP conducts military operations there is a total disregard for laws and rights, thus the proliferation of human rights violations.
What then is the added value of declaring martial law other than to give the legal license to commit more human rights violations and to curtail the rights of citizens even in areas far from where military operations and armed clashes are happening?
Is the declaration of martial law in Mindanao meant to warn the Filipino people that this government would not hesitate to do so when challenged?
Is it meant to appease the hawks in the AFP and in government by giving them the license to do as they please? It is worth remembering that during the Marcos Martial Law period, military officers close to Marcos enjoyed a lot of power and privileges.
Whatever the case, President Duterte has shown that he is serious in his threats to declare martial law and that it is not mere rhetoric. If there is nary a whimper from Congress, the Supreme Court and the Filipino people, then there is nothing that would prevent the Duterte administration and the militarists within it from imposing it nationwide, now and in the future.
It is time that the Filipino people shows that it is also serious in rejecting martial law and the curtailment of our hard-fought rights. It is time that we back up our shouts of “Never Again” with concrete acts of protest.