Con-Com proposes adding ‘lawless violence’ as grounds for martial law

Pia Ranada
Con-Com proposes adding ‘lawless violence’ as grounds for martial law
(UPDATED) 'Lawless violence' will be defined as 'terrorism' and 'violent extremism,' says ex-military man and Consultative Committee member Ferdinand Bocobo

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Consultative Committee (Con-Com) formed by President Rodrigo Duterte to amend the constitution wants to add another basis by which a president can declare martial law.

The group is proposing adding “lawless violence” to the grounds for martial law declaration, they said during a press conference on Wednesday, May 23, coincidentally the day Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao.

Retired general Ferdinand Bocobo, the Con-Com member who sponsored this proposal, said “lawless violence” refers to “terrorism” and “violent extremism.”

This definition, he said, will be explicitly stated in the annotation of the proposed charter. (READ: War vs pro-ISIS PH groups rages on a year after Marawi siege)

“Lawless violence” will thus be added to the grounds for martial law specified in Article VII, Section 18 of the 1987 Constitution – “invasion, rebellion, when the public safety requires it.”

The counterpart of Section 18 in the Con-Com-proposed charter reads:

“In case of lawless violence, invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he may, for a period not exceeding sixty (60) days, place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law. Within forty-eight (48) hours from the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, the President shall submit a report in person or in writing to the Congress. The Congress, voting jointly, by a vote of at least a majority of all its Members in regular or special session, may revoke such proclamation or suspension, which revocation shall not be set aside by the President. Upon the initiative of the President, the Congress may, in the same manner, extend such proclamation or suspension for a period to be determined by the Congress if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it.”

The term “lawless violence” is already in the 1987 Constitution, but it is not considered basis for martial law declaration.

It is mentioned in this line in Section 18: “The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion.”

No ‘widespread’ qualifier

In an earlier version of the proposed provision, the term “widespread” was added to “lawless violence.”

However, this was eventually stricken out, removing the concept of scale of a case of lawless violence. (READ: ARMM Governor Hataman: We cannot afford another war in Marawi)

“Lawless violence does not have to be widespread as a grounds for declaring martial law or suspending the writ of habeas corpus,” said Con-Com member and former justice Antonio Nachura.

Bocobo denied that the idea to add this new basis was Duterte’s. He said the new provision was the product of his consultation with various security officials.

“Wala (No input from the President). We asked resource persons from [the] Department of National Defense, National Security [Adviser], DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government), based on the current threats,” said Bocobo. –

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at