What we should know about Martial Law

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez - The Freeman

On this forty-fourth anniversary of President Marcos' martial rule, we need to understand the principles and the law governing it, and its far-reaching impact on the lives of the whole nation.

Before any Filipino should start speculating on the meaning and implications of Martial Law and the far-fetched possibility of President Duterte declaring it one of these days, it is the better part of reason for us to take a long and hard look at our fundamental law. When President duterte declared a state of lawlessness and later a state of national emergency, a number of Filipinos here and abroad started to entertain wild thoughts of many grim possibilities.

First of all, we hasten to say at the outset that the Constitution as of today is definitely not the same fundamental law in 1972, when President Marcos issued Proclamation 1081, placing the entire Philippines under a regime of Martial Law, and proclaimed himself as a constitutional dictator, abolishing Congress, both the Senate and the House. He governed the nation in his capacity as commander-in-chief of all the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Although the judiciary was not abolished, even provincial commanders could issue the much-dreaded ASSO (arrest, search and seizure order). And judges who refused to cooperate were simply informed that their resignations were accepted.

Many opposition leaders were arrested and detained indefinitely and without charges, including Senators Ninoy Aquino, Lorenzo Tañada Jose W.Diokno, Ramon Mitra, Francisco Rodrigo, JovitoSalonga, and many others. Private firms were taken over, including Meralco, San Miguel, the Jacinto-owned Steel Mills in Iligan,the Lopez empire including the ABS-CBN, the Manila Chronicle and hundreds, if not thousands of others.

The purported rationale behind such bold, unprecedented, and draconian measures was supposedly to save the republic from the clutches of the communists and to establish a New Society. In the name of Martial Law, thousands were reportedly tortured, raped, murdered, and died. Others were missing without trace until today.

Today, all those atrocities will not happen anymore. The 1987 Constitution has made sure that no such excesses shall ever take place again. Under Section 18 of Article VII of the current charter, within 48 hours from proclamation, the President has the duty to submit a written report to Congress.

Immediately, Congress in joint, by a vote of simple majority may revoke the declaration of Martial Law. It is also specified that martial law shall not suspend the constitution and the courts and the military cannot override the judges. All these restrictions shall prevent the president becoming a dictator. Both the courts and Congress are there to provide check and balance.

That is why before anyone should start spreading unfounded rumors about the dangers of another Martial Rule, it is imperative that he or she should review the Constitution and check whether any opinion expressed has basis in our fundamental law. The Martial law excesses and sufferings during the darkest chapters of our history must have taught us some grave and indelible lessons, leading the 1986 Constitutional Commission to decide on the emasculation of the presidential powers. Such powers used to be vast and unstifled under both the charters of 1935 and 1973. Today, the 1987 Charter puts more stress on the human rights of people rather than the powers of the state.

Indeed, what matters most is that sovereignty resides in the people and all authority emanates from them.

[email protected].

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