Sereno to Filipinos: Have courage to stop martial law

MANILA, Philippines – Ousted chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno urged Filipinos on Saturday, September 1, to have the courage to stop the return of martial law in the Philippines.

Sereno recalled the horrors of the Martial Law years under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, whose 21-year rule was marred by killings, torture, censorship, and corruption. She said martial law can return if not enough people resist it.

"We do not need the formal imposition of martial law for martial law to become a reality. We do not need to see tanks on the street, or men in uniform taking charge. We just need to be sufficiently afraid. Afraid enough to stay quiet when we see wrong, when we see our people being killed, when we know that our country's coffers are being raided," Sereno said at the Forward Pilipinas forum on Saturday.

She added, "If all we do is complain among ourselves and not act collectively to publicly denounce corruption and lawlessness in government, then we have imposed martial law in our own minds. You see, the first objective of martial law is to impose control. And when we impose controls on ourselves by not speaking the truth when we should, then we would have helped the tyrant win." (READ: CJ Sereno to Ateneans: Make sure past Martial Law horrors not repeated)

Sereno also urged Filipinos to stop their future from "being mortgaged." She pointed out that the Marcos regime piled up "unconscionable debts" – a burden that "will go on until 2025."

"What you and I can do is be brave. Stand. Have courage. Only then can we hope to prevent the destruction of your generation's future," Sereno said.

Sereno's warning comes as government critics say President Rodrigo Duterte is employing dictatorial ways. More than 27,000 people have died in both police operations and extrajudicial killings since Duterte launched his anti-drug campaign in 2016.

Recently, Duterte said one of his preferred successors is former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr, son of the late dictator. Duterte said that instead of Vice President Leni Robredo as his successor, the Philippines is "better off with a dictator the likes of Marcos."

De Lima hits 'malevolent plan'

In a related statement on Sunday, detained opposition senator Leila de Lima warned against Duterte's "malevolent plan" to unseat Robredo and make Marcos his successor. 

"After the Supreme Court has demonstrated its capability to perform the unconstitutional ouster of its own chief justice, it can no longer be relied upon to stand as the guardian of the Constitution and the rule of law," said De Lima in letter sent from her jail cell in Camp Crame.

"Now, more than ever, citizens must rely on their own organic power to thwart any attempt to undermine constitutional democracy and to foist Duterte's illegitimate choice of successor upon the Filipino people," she added.

Marcos is protesting Robredo's vice presidential victory before the SC, where 13 of 15 justices, by 2022, will be Duterte appointees.

De Lima warned, "As the math of coopted SC votes improves to favor a Marcos fake victory, so will the Marcos-Robredo PET case unravel to its malevolent conclusion." –

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the Senate and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.