‘Martial law cannot be the new norm in Mindanao’ – Drilon, Escudero

Camille Elemia
‘Martial law cannot be the new norm in Mindanao’ – Drilon, Escudero
Likening martial law to an antibiotic, Senate Minority Franklin Drilon says, 'It is resorted to only when ordinary over-the-counter drugs have ceased to work'

MANILA, Philippines – Martial law cannot be the new norm in Mindanao.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senator Francis Escudero said this on Wednesday, December 12, as they questioned and opposed another one-year extension of martial law in the island. Other senators who voted against it are Senators Francis Pangilinan, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, and Risa Hontiveros.

Drilon said martial law is “the highest form of self-preservation” and should not be treated as the normal solution. He likened it to the overuse and misuse of antibiotics. 

Ang martial law po ay parang antibiotic (Martial law is like an antibiotic). It is resorted to only when ordinary over-the-counter drugs have ceased to work. Unlimited resort to this powerful medicine desensitizes the body and eventually no longer becomes effective in providing the protection that it was designed to give. Martial Law is a measure of last resort. We must not resort to it when other, less extreme measures are available,” Drilon said, as he explained his vote.

“If martial law is reduced to become part of the Mindanaoan’s everyday reality, what recourse do we have left if despite such military rule, the problem in Mindanao is not solved? Will this justify the resort to a stronger measure? At what cost? Does such a measure exist within the confines of our Constitution? Clearly it does not,” he added.

Drilon said the government is inconsistent with its policies on Mindanao, citing the enactment of the Bangsamoro Organic Law, which seeks to increase the region’s autonomy.

“Mr President, I hope that Congress will not let itself become a tool for the normalization of martial law in Mindanao. We must not let that happen,” he said.

Escudero, for his part, said similar things could be done and achieved in Mindanao even without the declaration of martial rule.

“This cannot be the new normal for Mindanao. Mindanao achieved economic growth, Mindanao achieved unprecedented maintenance of peace and order in the area and it can do so even without martial law. Bakit di po ba puwedeng makamit ng Mindanao ang nakakamit na pag-unlad sa Visayas at Luzon nang walang bahid ng batas militar (Why can’t Mindanao achieve the same progess as Visayas and Luzon without the need for martial law)?” Escudero said.

“Let us give credit where credit is due. This was achieved under the administration, not under martial law. Kayang gawin ito ng administrasyon at nagawa ito hindi dahil sa martial law (The administration can do this and this was done not because of martial law),” he said.

Insufficient grounds

President Rodrigo Duterte and his security officials cited the “continuing rebellion” in Mindanao as main reason. They cited the existence of the Abu Sayyaf Group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and the New People’s Army, among others.

But for senators, this is insufficient. They also mentioned the growing economy in the region, as well as the people’s supposed support for it.

“Hindi maikakaila na gumanda ang ekonomiya ng Mindanao nitong nagkaroon ng batas militar….Hindi rin maikakaila na bumaba ang kriminalidad. Ang problema ko, wala po ‘yan sa isa sa mga basehan para magdeklara ng martial law sa isang lugar sa ating bansa. Ang binabanggit lamang ay invasion o rebellion. Hindi po pagpapanatili ng peace and order, ‘di po pagpapaganda ng ekonomiya o di po dahil gusto ng tao,” Escudero said. 

(It cannot be denied that Mindanao’s economy improved under martial law….It also cannot be denied that criminality dropped. My problem is, none of that is basis for the declaration of martial law in any place in our country. What are mentioned are invasion or rebellion only – not for maintaining peace and order, not to improve the economy or not because this is what the people want.)

“Kung ang basehan ay ang New People’s Army, 50 taon na po ang rebelyong ‘yan, kung ‘yan po magiging basehan, eh di tatagal pa po ‘yan kahit hanggang 10 taon,” he added.

(If the basis is the New People’s Army, that rebellion has been raging for 50 years already. And if that rebellion became the basis then martial law will last for maybe another 10 years.)

Drilon shared the same view and said there is no actual armed uprising that necessitates another extension. (READ: No actual rebellion, no data to back martial law extension – lawmakers)

“The Constitution is clear that martial law may be declared only in cases of actual rebellion when public safety requires it. The elements of rebellion are well settled. It is committed by rising publicly and taking arms against the government for the purpose of removing from its allegiance the territory of the Philippines or any part thereof,” Drilon said. 

This is the 3rd time President Duterte has requested for an extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao.

Voting 235-28-1, Congress granted the extension until December 31, 2019.  – Rappler.com

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com