POSTSCRIPT / June 11, 2017 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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SC need not wait 30 days to decide

WHATEVER we call the armed conflict tearing apart Marawi City —be it rebellion or lawlessness, terrorism, insurrection, revolt or an uprising – it is an ugly WAR taking innocent Filipino lives as government troops battle Maute marauders.

The Supreme Court has been asked to rule if the bloody conflict in Marawi is a rebellion that justifies President Rodrigo Duterte’s imposing martial law in Mindanao. He gave assurance Friday that he would abide by any SC ruling, as if he had a constitutional choice.

Terminology is important to lawyers. But to those caught in the crossfire, whether the Revised Penal Code calls it rebellion or something else, the experience is a horrible war — and war is hell.

The carnage should stop before it takes more lives and reduces to rubble that beautiful Muslim city beside scenic Lake Lanao. Stopping the fighting now on its third week, alas, is easier said than done.

While the Constitution gives the Supreme Court 30 days to rule if there is factual basis for the Commander-in-Chief’s proclamation of martial law not only in Marawi but in the entire Mindanao, the tribunal need not wait that long.

In fact, giving the architects of martial law more time possibly to tailor the “facts” to the questioned decree – Proclamation No. 216 – will not be fair and just. But the greater reason for a speedy resolution is to help ease tension and open doors to peace.

President Duterte claims to have factual basis for his proclamation, so he should be able to submit the facts quickly. Martial law being not without precedents, the SC justices, aided by their researchers and amici curiae, can render an opinion either way in less than 30 days.

• Psychology of the hunt — pressure

BEING outlaws with a demonstrated violent streak, the Maute warriors can be expected to keep fighting whatever ruling is handed down by the Supreme Court.

Our guess is that the terrorists’ fiercely holding their increasingly untenable position indicates that the Maute brothers Omar and Abdullah, as well as terrorist leader Isnilon Hapilon whom they have been protecting, are still in Marawi, cornered and hungry and possibly wounded.

One logical move is to cauterize the malignant Maute cells, to prevent their slipping out of a tightening cordon. As their resistance drags on, they could run out of food, water, rest and sleep, munitions and tactical options.

It is good that government forces and the Commander-in-Chief have shown toughness. President Duterte’s having been challenged must have hardened his resolve to wipe out the Mautes and whatever armed groups would attempt to help them.

With or without martial law, with or without the terrorists being “inspired” by the savage Islamic State, the President seems to have gained support in and outside Mindanao for his iron-fisted pursuit of the Maute outlaws.

Assuring the nation that he has no plan of perpetuating himself in power, Duterte said Friday: “You know these fools, they were trying to think that we in government are trying to perpetuate ourself in power… I’m the second president to declare martial law. I am not proud of it. I am not happy because it indicates something, that there is trouble.”

The psychology of the hunt is relentless pressure on the quarry. While state forces can keep chasing, fighting and replenishing their ranks, the cornered outlaws cannot rest and relax.

We note that until now, three weeks into the intense fighting, we have not heard of related or major diversionary clashes outside Marawi. Is the Maute group lacking in allies or sympathizers? Or are we talking too soon?

A most depressing news that we hope would never break is that the Maute stragglers had “slipped through the military cordon” with the help of civilian supporters or rebel groups. May Allah not allow that!

• Arrest of rebellion suspects begins

WITH the delay in the resolution of the martial law petitions, the defense department has gone ahead issuing arrest orders, an action normally performed by the regular courts that Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno said must continue to function in Mindanao.

Under Section 18, Article VII, of the Constitution, the suspension under martial law of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus applies only to cases of invasion and rebellion, and that persons so arrested must be released if no such charges are filed in three days.

With the warlike situation in Marawi having worsened, some quarters are beginning to be resigned to the government’s mailed-fist handling of security threats. This has been disquieting to others.

Without the Supreme Court rendering a quick decision, the public mind could be conditioned into condoning warrantless arrests and indefinite detention of suspects – as the Commander-in-Chief had told the troops in Mindanao they could do under martial law.

The defense department announced the other day that it had issued arrest orders against 310 suspected members, supporters, spies and couriers of four terrorist organizations in Mindanao. We did not notice anybody howling in protest.

The suspects are allegedly involved in killings, kidnappings and bombings aimed at setting up an Islamic state in Marawi, acts that constitute the crime of rebellion under Article 134 of the Revised Penal Code. They include members of the Maute group, Abu Sayyaf, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and the Maguid group.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, martial law administrator, directed the armed forces, the Philippine National Police, Philippine Coast Guard, National Bureau of Investigation, and the Bureau of Immigration to carry out his arrest orders.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 11, 2017)

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