Should Filipinos fear martial law?

MANILA –“Never again,” some people, including millennials, said when they learned about President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

While it cannot be denied that there were tragic stories during martial law under the late president Ferdinand Marcos, does it mean Filipinos should fear President Duterte’s declaration?

PTV-4 aired a special forum called #DefendRepublic at 8 p.m. Friday to shed light on the martial law that the Chief Executive has declared in Mindanao.

Hosted by Aljo Bendijo and Kathy San Gabriel, the forum had a resident of Marawi City and political analysts to explain the situation and clarify the need for martial law.

Princess Habibah Sarip-Paudac, a resident of Marawi City, described the place as a haven.

“Masaya sa aming lugar. (People are happy in our place.) It is also cold there. We call it little Baguio,” she said, adding that the city caters to numerous businessmen, teachers and traders.

That was before May 23, 2017, when the Maute Group brought violence to Marawi City, killing innocent people, causing fears, burning houses and establishments, according to reports.

The act was described as a form of violent extremism.

To stop such violence and cruelty and to preserve public safety, the President declared martial law in Mindanao on the night of May 23.

Section 18 Article 7 of the 1987 Constitution states that “the President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines, and whenever necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion”.

During the forum, it was highlighted that martial law does not suspend the operation of the Constitution — civil courts and legislative assemblies will carry on.

It was also said that the military has no jurisdiction over civilians.

President Duterte earlier clarified that the declaration of martial law in Mindanao also serves as a preventive measure, so that violence will not spread to other parts of the country, especially in the Visayas, which is so close to Mindanao.

Also, the President emphasized that martial law is the key to stopping violent extremism.

Sarip-Paudac said residents of Marawi City were shocked. “They just saw people were running… Everything happened in one day (May 23). All they knew was people were running, and that created panic,” she narrated.

As a resident of Marawi, she said she could not fathom why the peaceful city became a target. The crisis forced residents to flee their homes.

She said she felt sad because on May 26, Muslims start observing the fasting month of Ramadan and residents of Marawi City have no place to come home to.

Maranaoans, she said, would love to celebrate the holy month of Ramadan in their homes, together with their families. Sarip-Paudac also expressed concern for other Maranaoan families, wondering if they are safe.

Clearing operations are ongoing. The Armed Forces of the Philippines believes that the Maute Group’s leader, Isnilon Hapilon, is still there.

Political analysts in the panel said the Maute Group has a big following.

On the need for martial law, it was noted that President Duterte’s declaration is different from Marcos’.

Earlier, the government, through Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza, noted that President Duterte’s martial law declaration does not intend to deprive anyone of his/her freedom and rights.

Furthermore, the declaration covers only Mindanao. Ma. Cristina Arayata/PNA