FORMER rebels and activists oppose the statement of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte to expand martial law in the Visayas if needed.
After placing Mindanao under military rule on May 23, 2017, the President said he may expand it to the Visayas if terrorism continues to persist and spills over to the rest of the country.
In an interview with The Daily Guardian on Air over Aksyon Radyo on May 27, Manuel Homena, former secretary of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and member of the executive committee for the Visayan Commission, said there is no strong basis for martial law to be extended to the Visayas as rebellion is not a major issue here, particularly in Panay.
“The biggest problems besetting us are drugs and graft and corruption. Kun ang declaration sang martial law sa Visayas wala masyado dako basis, buot silingon may malisya. Ang tuyo indi maayo,” he said.
Homena, who fought the Marcos dictatorship for 20 years and a victim of martial law, added that expanding martial rule to the rest of the country might result in abuses by the military and the government.
He said members of the revolutionary movement in Panay are willing to reunite for the sake of human right protection.
“Basta may makatawo nga kawsa indi budlay mag-activate sang tanan nga organizations sa Panay,” he said.
But Homena said he is giving the president the chance to solve the issue in Mindanao.
Pablito Araneta, another former member of the CPP and New People’s Army, believes that martial law will not be imposed in other areas.
“There is no basis to declare martial law beyond Mindanao. Our governors and regional commanders in Western Visayas are on top of the situation. We have a Muslim community here but they are mostly traders and businessmen,” Araneta said.
He also advised the public to remain vigilant for possible spillover of violence in Mindanao.
“Ang gusto ko lang diri makita sa aton sa Visayas particularly sa Iloilo nga masigasig ang aton students, mamumugon kag mangunguma nga mangin vigilant sa paglantaw sang sitwasyon,” he said.
Araneta said he is willing to give the president the chance with his move in addressing the rebellion in Mindanao.
“I am giving it the chance to work. Because we are guided by the 1987 Constitution which was ratified by us. Kun indi magsunod ang president kag abusuhon niya, ari kita. Bantayan ta kag preparahan,” he said.
Araneta also experienced martial law when he was a community organizer in Northern Isabela.
Nilo Prieto, concurrent member of the CPP executive regional party committee in Panay, said martial law in Mindanao does not only affect the Maute Group but all armed groups.
He said anybody, including the NPA and other opposition groups, might be ordered by the government to be arrested or shot.
“Basta may armas ka lang tiruhon ka. The business and mobility of the public will be affected,” Prieto said.
Prieto recognized that the culture of rebellion among Muslims has been existing for centuries already. He urged the public to unite and become wiser.
Mario Andon, regional secretary of Partido ng Manggagawa, said he does not see any valid reason to place Visayas under martial law.
Andon said their group opposes the move as it will affect the business climate in the island.
“The suspension of the writ of habeas corpus deprives a person of his civil right to organize a union. Everyone can be suspected for rebellion. You might be arrested without warrant. You will be deprived of all your liberty,” he added.
He said that even during the time of the late President Marcos, martial law was no good.
TWO MARTIAL LAWS
Nearly 45 years since martial law was imposed in 1972, another one was declared but this time, it is limited to Mindanao.
While both declarations suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus and other civil rights, a staunch anti-Martial Law activist and lawyer noted the difference between the two.
The late president Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in the entire country on Sept. 21, 1972 “to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion, insurrection, or rebellion, or immense danger thereof, when the public safety requires it.”
Pres. Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23, 2017 due to rebellion and because public safety requires it.
In an interview with The Daily Guardian on Air, lawyer Hector Teodosio said that while the 1935 Constitution gave no limitations to Marcos, the Duterte declaration was restricted by the 1987 Constitution.
Under the new constitution, a president can only declare martial law on the basis of invasion, rebellion, and when public safety requires it.
Rebellion, according to Teodosio, is armed uprising to take over the government or any portion of the government.
He said that even if there is a declaration of rebellion but there is no demand for public safety, the president cannot immediately declare martial law.
“For example, there are 200 individuals who assembled at the Freedom Grandstand and declared rebellion against the Philippine government but then there is a disco party in La Paz district. Wala demand for public safety or danger because ara lang sila dira,” he said.
Teodosio said Duterte is also required to provide factual basis and report to Congress within 48 hours after the declaration to justify the need for military rule in Mindanao.
He said another requirement for the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is that within three days you need to file a case against a suspected rebel or those involved in rebellion.
“Otherwise if the case was insufficient, you need to release the person. But during the 1972 martial law, the suspected rebel can be detained even for a year without formal charges. He or she will stay in the prison cell until the president decides to release him or her,” Teodosio said.
The 1987 Constitution also allows the Supreme Court to investigate the factual basis of the martial law declaration.
A concerned citizen, can also file petition at the Supreme Court to question the validity and factual basis of the declaration.
Teodosio said the issue with martial law is not the possible abuse of power by authorities, but the government’s tendency to incompetently address the issue in Mindanao.
He warned to government from succumbing to erroneous information, citing Duterte’s report that a chief of police in Malabang town, Lanao del Sur was beheaded by the Maute Group.
It turned out the president was misinformed as the police chief told the media that he was fine.
Teodosio said the martial law declaration will either make Duterte one of the best presidents or many people will find him the most incompetent leader.
“The president and his advisers should come up together to present a plan as this will either make or destroy the president,” he said.
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