Saturday, December 05, 2009

Maguindanao Martial Law--Is There an Invasion or Rebellion?

The 1987 Constitution provides for Presidential powers to declare martial law:

“ Article VII, Section 18 - The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion. In case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he may, for a period not exceeding sixty days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law.”

The president is then mandated to submit a report to the Congress which may revoke the declaration or suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.

In the declaration of martial law in Maguindanao, the basis of the declaration cannot be helped but be questioned. As provided for in the Constitution, the president may declaration of martial law only in the case of invasion or rebellion.

Under the said provision, where does the Maguindanao situation fall under? Invasion? By who? Is it a rebellion? Is the provincial government of Maguindanao led by the Ampatuans taking up arms against the government?

While I would like to support government initiatives which will ensure the maintenance of law and order in Maguindano following the Ampatuan Massacre, I do not see the reasons that would justify a declaration of martial law as prescribed in the Constitution. Considering the current atmosphere of peace and order, there is not even enough reasons to call out the Armed Forces because there is no lawless violence going on in Maguindanao.

The Congress should reject this declaration because it has no firm basis to stand on and it will open up the avenue for those who have previously expressed their proposal for a no-elections scenario to pursue their plans. If martial law is allowed to go on in Maguindanao, trouble can easily be created in other parts of the country and the expansion of the coverage of martial law can immediately be justified.

With elections just around the corner, and recent talks of No-El scenarios still ringing in our ears, the imposition of Martial Law in Maguindanao under circumstances which do not require it should really be met with skepticism.

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