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Philippines Today

Clothing tyranny with constitutionality

Published in On Distant Shore

With the Supreme Court basically showing reluctance to review President Duterte’s martial law declaration and ceding its power to the President to determine the territorial scope of martial law, it now seems that the country’s slide to tyranny is coming to near certainty. Congress has earlier given up its power to review the bases for the martial law declaration by refusing to call for a joint session for a debate on the issue and instead voting to endorse the President’s action without any discussion.


The high tribunal opted to ignore Duterte’s threats to jail those who criticize or oppose his martial law declaration and his earlier defiant statement that he would listen only to the military on whether or not martial law should be lifted, and not to Congress or the Supreme Court.


The Supreme Court was oblivious to the authoritarian tendencies of the President as shown by his repeated warnings to the judiciary to stop issuing temporary restraining orders against government projects, his orders to policemen and the military to ignore the courts’ orders against arresting suspects or searching homes without the proper warrants, his encouragements to policemen that have led to thousands of victims of extrajudicial killings, his repeated threats to the judiciary, the legislative and critics not to block his so-called reforms, and many more.


The capitulation of the Supreme Court, the people’s last resort to uphold democracy and the rule of law, was evident in the martial law ruling. Instead of undertaking a thorough review of the factual bases of the martial law declaration over the entire Mindanao region, the Court, with the concurrence of 11 justices, ruled: “A review of the aforesaid facts similarly leads the Court to conclude that the President, in issuing Proclamation No. 216, had sufficient factual bases tending to show that actual rebellion exists.”


The tribunal is mandated by the 1987 Constitution to undertake an impartial and through review of the factual bases for the martial law declaration, but it instead said it was not equipped with facts to conduct such review and basically left it to the President to make the determination by simply showing probable cause – not incontrovertible facts -  that rebellion or invasion exists. Thus, its ruling: “After all, what the President needs to satisfy is only the standard of probable cause for a valid declaration of martial law and suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.” 


The Supreme Court ruling also left the door open for the President to extend and expand his martial law declaration by saying: “Clearly, the power to determine the scope of territorial application belongs to the President… To reiterate, the Court is not equipped with the competence and logistical machinery to determine the strategical value of other places in the military’s efforts to quell the rebellion and restore peace. It would be engaging in an act of adventurism if it dares to embark on a mission of deciphering the territorial metes and bounds of martial law.”


This was also very evident when it said: “The Constitution grants him (the President) the prerogative whether to put the entire Philippines or any part thereof under martial law. There is no constitutional edict that martial law should be confined only in the particular place where the armed public uprising actually transpired. This is not only practical but also logical.”


With only four justices expressing dissent, the Court basically abdicated its review powers over the declaration of martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. What will stop President Duterte now to declare martial law all over the country when the police or the military claim that the Maute Group or the Abu Sayyaf or any other insurgent group has launched a rebellion in Bohol or in Quiapo? Duterte can claim that probable cause exists to declare martial law beyond Mindanao.


Congress – that renegade body of politicians – has shown it is subservient to its otherwise co-equal branch by refusing to perform its constitutional duty of calling for a joint session to discuss and to vote whether or not there was factual bases for the martial law declaration. In fact, the leader of the Lower House – clearly the inferior part of Congress – Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has not only avidly defended the martial law declaration in Mindanao, but also openly pushes a five-year martial law period to last until the end of Duterte’s term!


The same guy who has shown no respect for the Rule of Law when he threatened to jail and disbar three Court of Appeals justices for ordering the release of six Ilocos Norte officials being held hostage by the House of Representatives in its chambers, and who said he would tear up any Supreme Court ruling against martial law, now says the military needs five years to eliminate the threat of rebellion in Mindanao after his boss promised to remove the Maute Group from the bowels of the earth in 60 days.


Fortunately, the military leaders are not as kiss-ass as the country’s congressional leaders and said a five-year martial law would be too long and that any extension beyond the 60 days allowed by the Constitution should be based on an “intelligent basis,” meaning after a thorough examination of the actual field situation and its effects on the country and the population.


While I agree with the opinion of Associate Justice Antonio Carpio that martial law should have been declared only in Marawi City, where rebellion obviously exists, I must agree with the words of lone dissenter Justice Marvic Leonen when he warned against the Supreme Court repeating the same mistake when the tribunal legitimized President Marcos’ martial law declaration in 1972 with only Justice Claudio Teehankee dissenting.


“Never again should this Court allow itself to step aside when the powerful invoke vogue powers that feed on fear but could potentially undermine our most cherished rights. Never again should we fall victim to a false narrative that a vague declaration of martial law is good for us no matter the circumstances. We have the courage to never again clothe authoritarianism in any disguise with the mantle of constitutionality,” Leonen concluded in his 92-page dissenting opinion.


This was what the Supreme Court did in its favorable ruling – it clothed authoritarianism with the mantle of constitutionality. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )


Martial law in entire PHL

Published in Editorial & Other Articles

Even as President Rodrigo Duterte and the Armed Forces of the Philippines have noted a tapering off in the exchange of gunfires between government troops and terrorists in Marawi City, proposals have been made to extend the 60-day martial law in Mindanao and expand it to cover the entire country. One proposal coming from Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez was even to extend martial law up to 2022 which is the end of the term of Mr. Duterte, which immediately drew protests from members of Congress themselves and various sectors of the country.


The proposals were aired following the Supreme Court decision upholding the proclamation of martial law. Others pointed out the success of the martial rule in Mindanao especially in the peace and order situation, the campaign against armed groups and illegal drugs. This is borne out by a Social Weather Station survey which showed that 57 percent of respondents favoured martial law, although many oppose the expansion to the Visayas and Luzon.


Even the Armed Forces itself said the idea of expanding martial law has never crossed the collective mind of the military. AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said he himself does not see the need to place the entire country under martial law but at the moment, the AFP is reviewing the situation and coming out with its recommendation after its assessment. Once the assessment is done along with their recommendation, it will be then forwarded to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the Martial Law administrator, who will then forward it to President Rodrigo Duterte who will then review and act on it.


Martial Law in Mindanao was declared night time of May 23 shortly after the attack of the Maute Group terrorists in Marawi City.  Under the 1987 Constitution, Martial Law is only limited for 60 days or up to July 23 and needs the approval of Congress for its extension. Careful and thorough assessment of the situation and consideration of all factors, including that of the international community, should be ensured to be able to come out with a wise decision for the good of the majority of the people and that of the country.

DAVAO CITY — Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said investing in the Philippines’ stocks market is now a better option for investors since it has improved and matured due to continued reforms in the past years.


In his speech during the celebration of Davao City-based Phoenix Petroleum’s 10th year listing with the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE), Dominguez said “market capital is the most efficient way to raise funds for a company’s operation and expansion.”


He said dramatic changes have happened in the domestic capital markets in the past years.


One such reform is the modification in the disclosure rules, which “curtained insider trading and encouraged investors’ participation in the market, confident this has become an even playing field fair for all investors.”


“These reforms are continuing, making the capital markets more inclusive,” he said.


The Finance chief stressed that “maturation of our capital market should be good news for our enterprises.”


“It offers alternatives for raising capital, compared to the bank financing. It allows the best managed corporations to quickly grow, supported by a broader base of investors,” he said.


Citing latest figures, Dominguez said stock market capitalization as of July 7, 2017 totaled to P16.4 trillion, nearly four times the P4.9 trillion registered by the fixed income market at the end of the first quarter this year.


“One could say that our capital market has finally come of age,” he said.


Dominguez said that as more businesses list with the PSE “the greater the incentive for them to meet global benchmarks in corporate governance.”


“The market demands transparent and accountable corporate governance as well as reliable rules of the game. It hastens the modernization of our domestic economy, allowing the best companies to access not only local but also foreign investments,” he added.


To date, there are nearly 300 companies listed with the PSE.


However, the Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) or the main index is composed of fixed basket of only 30 listed companies, which are the largest and most active common shares.


MARAWI CITY/MANILA — Even as the war against terrorists in Marawi City has resumed after an eight-hour truce, President Rodrigo Duterte met Muslim and Mindanao leaders in Malacanang on June 27 to celebrate the Eid’l Fitr, the end of the Muslim Ramadan.


During the rites, Duterte, who showed up after six days of absence, stressed anew his promise to the Filipinos that he would secure lasting peace in Mindanao, adding that Marawi City will rise again from the rubbles of the war on the terrorists.


"Sabi ko tatapusin ko talaga ito but one thing I will promise you: I will see to it that Marawi will rise as a prosperous city again," Duterte said


In his first public speech in six days, the President vowed to release P20 billion for the rehabilitation of Marawi, a cultural and trade center located at the heart of mainland Mindanao.


"I need a big amount because I will rebuild Marawi. Kailangan ko talaga itayo ang Marawi kasi, kung hindi, I will remain forever a kontrabida," said Duterte, the first Mindanaoan president. (I need a big amount because I will rebuild Marawi. I badly need it because if I fail to rebuild Marawi, I will remain a villain forever.)

“To our brothers and sisters who have been affected by the violence and conflict in Mindanao, I assure you that the government is committed to securing just and lasting peace in the island,” President Duterte said in his speech before an audience of Muslim Filipinos.

The Chief Executive said the military and police remain hard at work to ending the crisis with dispatch, especially in Marawi City.

At the same time, Duterte said the government will continue to support Muslim Filipino scholars like Omar O. Sacar and Abdul Aziz A. Banisil to help improve the capabilities of the country's youth.

Sacar and Banisil are now studying at the Imam Muhammad Bin Saud University in Indonesia. 

Duterte hoped that the two will become part of the next generation of leaders who will help develop and advance their localities towards greater prosperity and progress.

Amid the continuing conflict in Marawi, Duterte said the entire nation stands beside the Muslim Filipino community.

“We will be with you as you rebuild your homes and localities, and as you realize your dreams of a better life,” he said.

Also in his address, the President expressed his sentiments over the misguided goals of the Maute group, which he said are against Filipino values and are only geared towards destroying lives and communities.


Duterte said it pains him to see Marawi crumble in the hands of extremists who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which he said was trying to bring an unacceptable ideology into the country.

“Ang masakit sa akin, na pumasok a fractured ideology na hindi naman malaman sila mismo kung ano ang ginagawa. All that they want is to kill and destroy. Paano tayo mabubuhay niyan?” he said.

The President called for national unity as he extended his greetings of peace for the Eid’l Fitr celebration.

“So let us unite to achieve our common goals. With our solidarity and faith in each other, let us make Mindanao and the Philippines a land of order, stability, harmony and prosperity,” he said.


The siege in Marawi City began a month ago, when the Maute group, led by brothers Omar and Abdullah, captured parts of the city in an alleged bid to establish an ISIS province in Mindanao. More than 450, mostly suspected terrorists have perished in the siege.


The clashes erupted after government troops attempted to arrest Abu Sayyaf senior leader Isnilon Hapilon in the city on May 23. Hapilon, known as ISIS' anointed leader in Southeast Asia, evaded arrest and has reportedly escaped after weeks of fierce clashes.


The conflict prompted Duterte to put the entire Mindanao under martial law, a declaration facing opposition at the Supreme Court.

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