Ferdinand Marcos - Never Again
Image Source: philstar.com

What ever happened to “Never again to martial law”? A phrase opt-repeated in many rallies long after the Filipino people ousted the dictatorship of the late Ferdinand Marcos in what is now known as “People Power,” it seems “never again” has lost its luster in the face of the emergence of another strongman who doesn’t hesitate to say Marcos was his idol.

President Duterte declared martial law in May throughout Mindanao to quell what he insisted was a rebellion by extremists who, he said, was planning to establish a caliphate in Marawi City, and it seemed the whimper of “never again” by a few souls were drowned out by the “ayes” of Duterte’s bootlickers in the not-so-hallowed halls of Congress.

The Supreme Court, supposedly the people’s court of last resort, also absconded its constitutional duty to review the martial law declaration when it ruled that it was not equipped with facts to conduct such review and basically left it to the President to make the determination by simply showing probable cause – not incontrovertible facts –  that rebellion or invasion exists.

Only one justice dared mention that popular phrase “never again.” In his dissenting opinion, Justice Marvic Leonen said: “Never again should this Court allow itself to step aside when the powerful invoke vogue powers that feed on fear but could potentially undermine our most cherished rights. Never again should we fall victim to a false narrative that a vague declaration of martial law is good for us no matter the circumstances. We have the courage to never again clothe authoritarianism in any disguise with the mantle of constitutionality.”

Last Saturday, Congress met in a hurried joint session and with an overwhelming vote of 261-18, elected to extend martial law – not for another 60 days – but for the rest of the year, exactly as requested by Duterte, throughout the region of Mindanao.

Did we expect more from a chamber whose leader has suggested that martial law should be extended until the end of Duterte’s term in 2022?

Senators Risa Hontiveros and Franklin Drilon were allowed to raise questions to some members of Duterte’s Cabinet, led by martial law administrator Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana during a supposed hearing, but for a few ramblings and unrelated facts, failed to answer the following questions:

• “Why is there a need to extend martial law until December if the government claims that it is in full control of the situation, that the skirmishes are confined to Marawi City and that most of the Maute have been “neutralized?”

• “What does the government hope to achieve by martial law that it cannot bring to pass by any of the laws now in force, such as the Human Security Act (the Anti-Terrorism Law)?”  

Indeed, why extend martial law until December and throughout Mindanao, and not just in Marawi City when the government has repeatedly said that the rebellion has been contained? Lorenzana echoed what Duterte and Malacanang spokesmen have repeatedly said in justifying martial law in the region – that there is real danger that the rebellion could spread to other areas in Mindanao and such danger must be stopped now.

Even assuming that rebellion actually does exist in Marawi City because of the Maute Group, does the same situation exist outside Marawi? Apparently not, because Duterte and the military have never mentioned a similar rebellion in Davao, Sulu or any other place, except to say that there is imminent danger of the rebellion spreading to other areas in the region.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said that martial law should be extended to eliminate once and for all the threat of extremism and insurgency in the region to enable Mindanao to develop to its potential. History tells us that military solution alone is not the answer to rebellion or insurgency, in the same manner that killing three million drug users will not solve the drug problem.

 Why must a leader have emergency powers to solve nagging problems? For example, does giving him emergency powers solve the traffic problem, or the lack of infrastructure?

Is Duterte conditioning our minds that martial law is the answer to all the country’s problems? That achieving prosperity for the Filipinos is possible only under an atmosphere of fear and repression? That martial law is what the country needs?  

No, please. Never again!