Tuesday| June 11, 2017
Will Philippine history repeat itself with the reemergence of the evils of martial law during the regime of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos?
Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who dissented from last week’s Supreme Court (SC) decision upholding President Duterte’s martial law proclamation in Mindanao, believes so.
Carpio said a repeat of the nation’s experience during the Marcos era highlighted by extrajudicial killings and human rights violations might not be farfetched after the high court gave its approval to Duterte’s martial law declaration.
In his 36-page decision, Carpio cited the public pronouncement of Duterte that his martial law “will not be any different from what Marcos did” after he issued Proclamation No. 216 that placed the entire Mindanao under martial law and suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the region.
Implementors of martial law are reportedly planning to recommend the extension of the 60-day martial law while proposals to expand its coverage to the entire country were also raised.
“The Court must take this public and official statement seriously for this is no trivial matter. When president Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972 under the 1973 Constitution, he abolished Congress, shut down media, imprisoned leaders of the political opposition, packed the Supreme Court with his law school classmates and loyalists, and ruled by decree — thereby making himself a dictator for over 13 years until the people ousted him from power in 1986,” Carpio warned.
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“The 1987 Constitution was written precisely to prevent a recurrence of the martial law of Marcos. It is apparent that President Duterte does not understand, or refuses to understand, this fundamental principle that forms the bedrock of our democracy under the 1987 Constitution, despite his having taken a solemn oath of office to ‘preserve and defend the 1987 Constitution,’” the magistrate lamented.
Carpio said the SC should have considered this “presidential mindset” and limited martial law only in Marawi City to prevent its expansion.
“Any sign of acquiescence by the Court to this Presidential mindset would be fatal to the survival of the 1987 Constitution and our democracy. The Court cannot play with the fire of martial law which could turn into ashes the very Constitution that members of the Court are sworn to preserve and defend, a tragic event that once befell the Court in 1972 and brought the Court to its lowest point in its entire history,” his opinion read.
“The Court must never allow the 1972 debacle to be repeated again. With this wisdom from hindsight, the Court must now stand firm and apply the clear letter and intent of the 1987 Constitution without fear or favor, for the nation and history demand no less from every member of the Court,” it stressed.
Carpio further lamented that by allowing martial law to be implemented in the whole of Mindanao, the majority ruling “has far-reaching ramifications on the future of our civil liberties and our democratic society under the rule of law.”
He added that the SC decision “mercilessly inflict(s) on the Filipino people the constant fear of a recurrence of the nightmarish martial law of Marcos.”
Carpio explained in his dissent that the requirements for martial law declaration under Article VII, Section 18 of the 1987 Constitution – actual rebellion or invasion and public safety – are present only in Marawi City where the Maute terror group was confined.
Believing there was only “imminent threat” of rebellion in other provinces, he disagreed with the majority ruling that the two requirements were present all over Mindanao.
Three other magistrates dissented from the SC ruling approved by a majority of 11 justices during its session last July 4. Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa voted to partially grant the petitions and limit the martial law coverage to the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and Sulu, while Associate Justice Marvic Leonen voted to grant the petitions and declare Duterte’s proclamation as unconstitutional.