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The restrictions on martial law

CONGRESS, meeting in joint session, voted last Saturday to extend martial law in Mindanao until December 31, 2017, as sought by President Duterte. The vote was 261 to 18 – the 18 being four senators and 14 congressmen.

There were a few protesters in the gallery who chanted “Never again! Never again!” before they were arrested for interrupting a congressional session. They were taken to the Quezon City Police District Station 6.

Apart from this minor interruption, the joint session proceeded as expected, without any fierce opposition in the session hall and without any noisy demonstration by mass organizations in the streets leading to the Batasan as in previous cases of mass protest.

It is said that one reason there is hardly any opposition to this martial law and its extension is the thinking that the situation in Marawi City requires it. This is the first time that fighting in any one spot in Mindanao has lasted more than 60 days, supporting the report that this conflict has substantial foreign support, in arms and ammunition, in funding, and in actual combatants. It is now generally accepted that the foreign combatants are with the jihadist Islamic State in the Middle East which has ambitions of establishing a worldwide caliphate and now seeks to set up a regional center in Mindanao for Southeast Asia.

The Supreme Court has ruled on the factual basis of the proclamation of martial law, voting 11 in favor, three in favor but limiting the area, and only one against. It was duly established that there is an actual rebellion – not just an imminent danger of one, as was provided in the old 1935 Constitution that President Marcos used to declare martial law in 1972.

The Duterte administration has scrupulously followed the new restrictions on any declaration of martial law in the new 1987 Constitution. It was for a period of only 60 days, with the President reporting to Congress within 48 hours of the proclamation. The civil courts and legislative assemblies have remained in session. No military courts or agencies have been established over civilians.

The protesters in the gallery during the special session of Congress last Saturday chanted “Never again! Never again!

– referring to the infamy and abusive brand of martial law that was imposed on the country in 1972. That martial law abolished Congress, rounded up thousands of people, including opposition officials and media men. They were detained for months, and many were never heard from again. Military courts convicted leaders such as Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. who was sentenced to death.

Truly, we must never again have that kind of martial law. The framers of the new Constitution on 1987 saw to that when they put in so many restrictions. And we have seen that the Duterte administration and the Armed Forces have precisely and meticulously acted within those restrictions.

This is why Congress so readily approved the extension sought by the President and why the nation supports the continued operation of martial law in Mindanao until the danger to the country and its security is eliminated.