Uniting our country and people
Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - December 14, 2017 - 4:00pm

In the spirit of the season, let us set aside any further disagreement and doubt on the extension of martial law in the entire Mindanao. The Armed Forces of the Philippines under its Commander-in-Chief, the President, is in the best position and better equipped to determine the actual situation in said place. They have more capability to find out if there is still lawless violence, invasion or rebellion and that public safety requires the extension of martial law therein.

For the rest of us who are not living in Mindanao, let us just keep faith and accept their decision on this matter. It is useless and even divisive for us to further question said declaration. Let us just pray for the safety of our fellow countrymen and for peace in that hapless area of our country, and continue to hope that the duration of the martial law proclaimed therein will end even before the extended period of one year.

However, to further calm down and remove the doubts and fears of the citizens about any hidden agenda of this administration to grab more power all over the country, it should take pains in explaining why the extension of martial law in Mindanao is for one year. This explanation is necessary because under the Constitution, the President may initially “suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law only for a period not exceeding 60 days. The lingering question here is why he extended it for one year.  If the President himself has previously announced that Marawi has already been liberated and rid of terrorists, then public safety in the whole Mindanao appears to be more secured. The longer period of extension somehow causes people to doubt the real intention for the extension. Hence, there should be an explanation in this regard.

Besides, under Section 18, Article VII of the Constitution, the period of extension of martial law is to be determined by the Congress. The President only initiates such extension if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it. In this case, it is the President who determined even the period of the extension. Such disregard of the Constitution and the overwhelming approval by the die-hard supporters of Duterte in Congress which voted 14 against four in the Senate and 226 against 23 in the Lower house or a total of 274 against 27, also give rise to the public impression that power politics is involved in the extension of the proclamation over and above the strict observance of the fundamental law of the land and the promotion of the best interests and safety of the people especially in Mindanao.

More interesting to note about the extension of the period is the rising public perception about the effects of Duterte’s first proclamation of martial law in Mindanao. It must be recalled first of all that way before he first declared martial law thereon, he has already been telling about the plans of the terrorists particularly the ISIS backed Hapilon and Maute groups to invade and occupy Marawi City. The government at that time already had ample time to prevent or suppress said invasion or rebellion. But the group still succeeded in carrying out their plan, thus giving rise to several months of fighting that caused a lot of death and destruction therein. The belief among a lot of people as to what happened in Marawi is that the proclamation of martial law in the entire Mindanao seemed to be part of a bigger plan to acquire more power by prolonging and widening the area throughout the country.

People are now thinking that the extension of the period of martial law in the entire Mindanao is an admission that the first martial law has not been so effective and has not achieved its purpose even if the armed forces have succeeded in preventing and suppressing the terrorists rebellion and invasion in Marawi City; that said extension is an admission of failure of the initial martial law rule in Mindanao. The growing public perception is that a more decisive and prompt action on the part of the government is the more effective way of preventing or suppressing invasion or rebellion in any part of the country rather than the imposition of martial law. They perceive that our armed forces have been effectively and efficiently doing their job in maintaining peace and order so there is really no need to exercise emergency powers.

And so as we move along through the years, let us keep hoping that this government really has the intention of promoting and enhancing best interest of the country and people rather than its own selfish political interests; that Duterte will be able to vindicate himself and eventually prevent the alleged invasion and rebellion in Mindanao through extension of martial law in the area; that he will succeed in his job as the leader of the country for the rest of his term; that he will be able to show us his sincerity and earnest efforts of achieving his oft repeated promises to the people especially in fighting crime, graft and corruption, and the drug problem that have been besetting our country for a long time now. This the best and only attitude on our part so that there will be unity in our country.

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Email: attyjosesison@gmail.com

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