POSTSCRIPT / May 25, 2017 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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No link to ISIS, no martial law

WITHOUT the supposed ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) link to the Maute terror attack on Marawi City this week, the group’s depredation was just the usual lawlessness that state forces should be able to suppress without imposing martial law in Mindanao.

The combined might of the armed forces and the police in Mindanao, under competent leadership, should be more than enough to neutralize the Maute marauders – said to be only 100-200 in number — that pillaged Marawi the other day.

To justify his martial law proclamation, the Commander-in-Chief may have to prove actual Maute-ISIS connection (not mere “inspiration”) when he submits to the Congress not later than 10 p.m. today the proclamation that he issued 10 p.m. Tuesday (6 p.m. in Moscow same day).

The only indication of an ISIS element in the Marawi raid was the waving of black flags resembling those of the Islamic terrorist group that has vowed to establish a global caliphate annexing areas that it has overrun.

For Mr. Duterte to cite homegrown terrorism, staged by Maute or other brigands, as the factual basis for martial law may not be sufficient.

That may even amount to an admission of his failure as the Chief Executive to keep the peace and enforce the law in Mindanao’s 27 provinces and 33 cities.

Section 18, Article VII, of the Constitution says: “In case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he (the Commander-in-Chief) may, for a period not exceeding 60 days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law.”

There seems to be no invasion or rebellion in Mindanao, unless the President is able to document and magnify the ISIS element and present it as an invasion, or to demonstrate that the Maute attack where three persons were killed was part of an ongoing rebellion.

The 1987 Constitution, which reads in some parts like a reaction to Filipinos’ harsh experience under Ferdinand Marcos, has made it difficult for a budding dictator to impose martial rule again, as can be gleaned from Section 18, Article VII.

The Congress and the Supreme Court can still check a President’s proclaiming martial law, or suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. His edict may be revoked by a majority vote of the two chambers of the Congress voting jointly. (And according to conscience, if we may add.)

Also, any citizen may ask the Supreme Court to review the sufficiency of the factual basis of the proclamation. The tribunal has 30 days to rule on the petition. Meanwhile, all courts on all levels continue to function even under martial law.

The suspension of the privilege of the writ applies only to persons judicially charged with rebellion or offenses inherent in or directly connected with the supposed invasion. Any person arrested or detained must be judicially charged within three days, otherwise he shall be released.

• Duterte planned martial law all along

IT APPEARS that the Maute pillage of Marawi gave President Duterte what he has been looking for — an opening and a justification to carry out his intention to declare martial law in Mindanao, if not in the entire country.

Explaining why all of Mindanao was included, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told media: “Because there are also problems in Zamboanga, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, also in Central Mindanao, the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Forces) area, and also some problems in Region 11 (Southern Mindanao), yung pangongotong ng NPA (extortion by the New People’s Army).

Carolyn O. Arguillas of MindaNews, which has extensive coverage on the ground, recalled that President Duterte has repeatedly said that if he declares martial law in Mindanao, he would “finish” all the problems there.

In a meeting last March, Arguillas reported, the President told Mindanao governors and mayors: “Either tulungan ninyo ako or I will declare martial law tomorrow for Mindanao.” He exhorted them to use their powers to prevent violence “from spinning out of control.”

MindaNews has monitored social media postings of residents. Norhanidah Macatoon posted on Facebook what looked like CCTV footage of armed men with high-powered firearms wearing camouflage parading near Masjid Abubakar Markaz where the heavy clash took place. “Allahu Akbar! Brothers and Sisters, please stay in your houses,” she said.

An ISIS flag was hoisted at the Amai Pakpak Hospital near City Hall and the Army Brigade station. “It caused panic (among) civilians in the hospital but none of them was used as shields by the armed group. They only raised the black flag there,” said Abul Alibasa. “There is also violence near Haifah Palace of Calookan.”

Omai Atar, wife of Marawi’s sultan and a hospital employee, said: “All physicians and nurses on duty are safe and okay per our communication. Employees are in hiding. May mga sundalo na daw duon sa may gate. Sana manegotiate nila peacefully. Please spare the hapless patients.”

The movement of the armed group caused traffic congestion, said Drieza Lininding on Facebook. “The Marawi City jail is also under siege. Oh my Allah, spare my family and relatives from any harm.” Javier Alonto posted: “As conflict escalates, we also have power interruption.”

Several Maranaos living in Marawi and other areas posted #savemarawi and #prayforMarawi on social media to call attention to the situation. Follow the MindaNews report at:

(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 25, 2017)

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