AT press time when the historic joint session of Congress deliberating on the merits or otherwise of Proclamation 1959—that declared martial law in Maguindanao province—is still on progress, the growing popular logic does not see how Malacañang based its daring on Section 18, Art VII of the Constitution that states: “In case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, (the President) 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.”
Neither could the Palace—but, of course, it did—base the proclamation on R.A. 6968 which provides that the crime of rebellion or insurrection “is committed by rising publicly and taking arms against the government for the purpose of xxx depriving the Chief Executive or the Legislative, wholly or partially, of any of their powers or prerogatives.”
Simply put, the case in Maguindanao, according to Bishop Ted Bacani who was a member of the commission that drafted the 1987 Constitution, was a blatant criminal act and not a rebellion against the government. He posed: “A close ally of President Arroyo was being implicated in the massacre so how can you justify the imposition of martial law?”
But be that as it may, or the in words of Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo “Since Martial Law has been declared. Let it be. I let the lawyers debate it. I pray that Martial Law resolve the abnormal situation and deal swift justice for the victims.”
The only rub is—and this may stink as in other past machinations authored by the powers that be—the Martial Law gambit may actually degrade the case of a mass murder into a political rebellion that subsumes any and all other crimes thereby paving the way of the perpetrators out of justice and jail.
A constitutionalist par excellence, Fr. Joauqin Bernas, warns rather seriously: “Murder committed in pursuance of rebellion is not considered a separate crime and is therefore absorbed by the charge of rebellion… rebellion runs the risk of being granted amnesty, which can be pardoned by the President following final conviction.” The drama may actually end up giving the criminals a holiday in court.
If such should be the case, then CBCP President Bishop Nerio Odchimar admonishes: “We are supposed to be guided by the rule of law enshrined in our constitution and legislations and not by the rule of men who imposed their will on the weak and powerless with utter disregarded of honesty and fair play. The exercise of civil power should be geared towards the promotion of the common good.”
Without mentioning the “mysteries” of the 2004 elections that reportedly unfolded mostly in Maguindanao, is it rather possible that the declaration of Martial Law and the consequent filing of rebellion cases may actually be a spin?