POSTSCRIPT / July 20, 2017 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Martial Law deal too good to reject

THE CONGRESS better approve quickly the proposal of President Rodrigo Duterte to extend to December 31, 2017, the duration of martial law in Mindanao after it expires on Sunday.

President Duterte has said often enough that if armed with martial law, he would solve Mindanao’s peace and order problems for good – not only the “rebellion” of some 60 Mautes still hiding beyond that bridge in Marawi, but also terrorism, crime, and drugs.

This is a deal too good to ignore. For just an additional 161 days to the 60 days allowed by the Constitution in the first instance, Mindanao under extended martial law would have become a haven of peace and tranquility by the time New Year slips in!

With Duterte-style martial law doing wonders in Mindanao as advertised, we could even consider spreading the blessings of such a regime with our brother Filipinos in Luzon and the Visayas starting January 1, 2018.

Just don’t be bothered that Mr. Duterte also promised during last year’s campaign that, once elected president, he would put an end to crime and corruption, and the drugs scourge, within three months (later extended to six months, and then to the end of his term).

Since no other candidate or party has made an alternative offer, or a kind of Swiss challenge to Mr. Duterte’s martial law package deal, why don’t we gamble and grab it? Ignore the feeling that we’re being conditioned to accept one-man rule beyond 2022.

So, after the convening on Monday of the joint session of the 17th Congress, the first order of business should be a bicameral motion to extend Mindanao martial law till the last day of the year — as desired by President Duterte.

• Martial law: Duterte’s silver bullet

DON’T read President Duterte’s message to the Congress and risk being distracted by what sounds like an admission that the rebellion that erupted in Marawi City has spread to all of Mindanao in the two months that the government has been fighting to contain it.

Gloss over this part where he says: “Upon a thorough personal assessment of the current situation xxx I have come to the conclusion that the existing rebellion in Mindanao xxx will not be quelled completely by the 22nd July 2017 – the last day of 60-day period provided under Section 18 Article VII of the 1987 Constitution.”

Bear in mind that Mr. Duterte considers martial law as the silver bullet that can snuff the life out of the rebellion, insurrection, lawlessness, terrorism, insurgency, and the drug menace troubling the country.

Apparently he does not believe in the “calling out” (the armed forces) power of the Commander-in-Chief to nip lawlessness in any part of the country. He thinks only in terms of wielding the ultimate weapon. Stripped of martial law, he feels naked as C-in-C.

Mr. Duterte seems to think in crisis proportions — like bombing the heart of a city to root out terrorists, gunning down crime suspects who show any hint of resisting, or asking for emergency powers just to untangle knotty traffic on EDSA.

But that is just in the nature of the man elected to lead this unruly nation. He insists that he needs martial law to do the job, to at least restore peace and quiet in the land. Let’s give it to him!

Section 18, Article VII, says: “xxx Upon the initiative of the President, the Congress may xxx extend such proclamation (of martial law) or suspension (of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus) for a period to be determined by the Congress, if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it.”

• DICT weighs in on telco assets row

PRONOUNCEMENTS of DICT Secretary Rodolfo Salalima on questions raised by the Philippine Competition Commission on the P70-billion purchase of the unused telecom assets of San Miguel Corp. should wake up the government to the urgency of boosting internet connectivity.

The PCC should help spur Philippine internet service from being the slowest in Asia. Its average connectivity speed of 5.5 megabits per second lags behind Thailand’s 16 mbps, Vietnam’s 9.5 mbps, Malaysia’s 8.9 mbps and Indonesia’s 7.2 mbps.

At the launching of Free EDSA WiFi project last June 12, Salalima weighed in on the issue as PCC Chairman Arsenio Balisacan and the PCC continued to question the decision of the National Telecommunications Commission to allow telecom giants Globe and PLDT to use the LTE spectrums they acquired last year from the dormant telecom holdings of San Miguel Corp.

Speaking for the NTC which is now under his newly created DICT, Salalima said: “They should also look into the skill, the administrative capacity of the NTC, in determining the frequency to be assigned, how much (is to be allotted and used)? Because they are there precisely because they are learned, they are skilled in that area.

“And before they make pronouncements, particularly to the public, they should also confer with the NTC on what exactly is going on. I don’t know if they really do understand the state of things as far as frequency is concerned.”

Salalima seems to want that PCC zeroes in on anti-competition issues which is its mandate, in the light of the pronouncements he made in the Telecom Summit held early this year that a third or fourth telco player can still be accommodated with the spectrums available.

There is an impression that PCC’s posturing has held back moves of the two telco giants to modernize their infrastructure, including the laying of fiber optics so the Philippines could improve its internet connectivity speed.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 20, 2017)

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