Practical safeguards vs martial-rule abuse


A few days after President Duterte formally declared martial law and suspended the writ of habeas corpus over all of Mindanao, former President Fidel V. Ramos and Chief Justice Maria Lourdes A. Sereno promptly sounded the alarm over possible abuse of martial-law powers by their administrators.

Ramos even added a call on Duterte not to expand military rule to the Visayas and even the rest of the country, emphasizing that it could do the country more harm than good. Referring to the 1972 martial law declared by President Ferdinand E. Marcos, he said, “We were all victims of martial law.  We would be much higher now in the ranking of nations, in the appreciation of other nations about the Philippines, if we did not have martial law.”

Sereno cited several Supreme Court and foreign court decisions, describing widespread human-rights violations during the 1972 martial rule.

In support of the legal safeguards, there are several practical ways the community can do to protect its members. Neighborhood watches can be organized.  Such groups are normally created by local government unit officials, like mayors and barangay captains.  But civic leaders can collaborate with them.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) can definitely assist community members on legal issues.  Several civic-minded lawyers and paralegal groups are more than willing to lend a hand in protecting the civil rights of citizens.

Establish social-media networks.  And if possible, establish a hotline to the military and police spokesman.

Fears about martial law have deep historical roots. The nation already has experienced what abuses are possible under military rule. We have learned enough to do whatever we can to guard against any of these abuses.


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