Monday, December 07, 2009

Justifying Martial Law

EQUALLY stunning and, perhaps, as gruesome as the massacre of 57 civilians on November 23 in Brgy. Masilay, Ampatuan, Maguindanao, was Proclamation No. 1959 “Proclaiming a State of Martial Law and Suspending the Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus in the Province of Maguindanao, Except for Certain Areas” which was made public only in the evening of December 4, 2009.

The reasons concocted for such boldness, as worded by the same proclamation, being: a) “heavily armed groups in the province of Maguindanao have established positions to resist government troops, thereby, depriving the Executive of its powers and prerogatives to enforce laws of the land and to maintain public order and safety”; b) “the condition of peace and order in the province of Maguindanao has deteriorated to the extent that the local judicial system and other government mechanisms in the province are not functioning, thus endangering public safety.”

That, of course, is a long-shot justification of Section 18, Art. VII of the Philippine Constitution that provides “In case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, (the President) may, for a period of not exceeding sixty days, suspend the privilege of the write of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law.”

That also is a stretching too much of R.A. 6968 that defines rebellion as one “committed by rising public and taking arms against the government for the purpose of depriving the Chief Executive or the Legislature, wholly or partially, or any of their powers or prerogatives.”

But granting, for the sake of argument, that the justifications of MalacaƱang for declaring Martial Law is legally convincing, still the effect is chilling. The reason is, the trust rating of the commander-in-chief has plummeted to below zero. Except for the notorious beneficiaries, nobody believes in the president—at least, according to surveys and the laments of one’s next door neighbor.

This declaration of Martial Law which is likely to be affirmed by the lackeys in both houses of congress, may actually be more beneficial to the Ampatuans who can now be charged with a more comfortable case of rebellion instead of murder.

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