By Edgardo J. Angara
Last week, the Maute Group—a local terrorist organization claiming to have ties with ISIS—took over Marawi City, leading to firefights with the Philippine military, and sadly, killing 21 people, and wounding another 31.
President Duterte declared martial law and ordered the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus over all of Mindanao. Media quoted him as saying, “Martial law is martial law…It could not be any different from what President Marcos did.”
In making the comparison, President Duterte was undoubtedly thinking about the strictness and discipline the armed services exercised in Sept 1972; he’s expecting the same standard the PNP and the AFP would observe during martial rule in Mindanao. There are, however, key differences with the martial law President Marcos declared on September 21, 1972.
For one, President Marcos declared martial law over the entire Philippines via Proclamation No. 1081, series of 1972. Such proclamation falls under the 1935 Constitution which stated that the President, as the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines, may suspend the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus or place any part of the Philippines under martial law, “to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion, insurrection, or rebellion, or imminent danger thereof, when the public safety requires it.”
In contrast, President Duterte issued his declaration of martial law over Mindanao (Proclamation No. 216, series of 2017) under the 1987 Constitution, which limits the President’s powers to put any part of the Philippines under martial law and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, only during cases “of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it.”
Whereas the 1935 Constitution placed no restriction on President Marcos’ declaration, President Duterte’s, under the 1987 Constitution, is subject to various checks and balances.
For one, the 1987 Constitution requires that within 48 hours from proclamation, the President should submit a report to Congress, either in person or in writing. Congress then has the right, voting jointly, by a vote of at least a majority of all its members, to revoke the proclamation or extend its validity beyond the 60-day limit, set in the Constitution.
Should any citizen question the validity of the proclamation, the Supreme Court may review the factual basis of the proclamation of martial law and decide whether it is sufficient or not. The 1987 Constitution affirms that martial rule does not mean the courts or the legislative bodies cease to operate, or that the civil rights of citizens are suspended. Even in times of rebellion or invasion, the Constitution should still be upheld.
In fact, the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus shall only apply to those charged with rebellion or invasion. And those arrested under the suspension of the writ must be charged within three days or be released.
A clear change between the 1935 and 1987 Constitutions was the deletion of the phrase, “…or imminent danger thereof,” from the provision listing the conditions upon which martial law can be declared.
Not only does the 1987 Constitution limit the reasons the President can declare martial law, it takes away any arbitrariness to how those conditions can be interpreted or determined. In other words, only when it has been unequivocally established that the country is being invaded or that a rebellion taking place can martial law be legally proclaimed.
None of the aforementioned limits existed in the 1935 Constitution.
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