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FACT CHECK: PH not under martial law after China water cannon incident


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FACT CHECK: PH not under martial law after China water cannon incident
The video only shows senators reacting to China’s latest act of harassment in the West Philippine Sea

Claim: President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. declared martial law after China blocked and fired water cannons at Philippine vessels heading to Ayungin Shoal last August 5.

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: The claim was made in a YouTube video posted by the channel Boss Balita TV on August 8, which has gained 113,000 views and 3,300 likes as of writing.


(China, surprised by martial law! Wow, President BBM! We’re going to fight! The whole world is angry! This is the last warning.)

According to the video’s narrator, China was threatened by a warning from Marcos that he would declare martial law should the Philippines be bombed once more. 

The video was uploaded in the midst of growing tensions between Manila and Beijing after a Chinese coast guard vessel blocked and fired water cannons at Philippine vessels heading to Ayungin Shoal during an August 5 resupply mission.

The bottom line: Marcos has not placed the Philippines under martial law. There are no official announcements, presidential proclamations, or news reports that back up the false claim.

Senators’ reactions: The video does not provide proof of Marcos making the supposed declaration. Instead, the video featured clips from a Senate plenary session on August 7, where various senators condemned China’s hostility in the West Philippine Sea.

A clip of Senator Robin Padilla, where he suggests imposing martial law to address issues in the West Philippine Sea, was highlighted. In it, he called for the reinstatement of the phrase “imminent danger” as among the grounds for declaring martial law. 

Hihintayin po ba nating mag-landing muna sila sa Palawan bago po natin baguhin ang Konstitusyon natin at amyendahan, at ilagay natin ang ‘imminent danger’? Hindi naman po ibig sabihin ng salitang ‘martial law’ na kapag naideklara, tayo ay magpa-flashback sa 1972. Hindi po ganoon. Ang martial law po ay isang bagay para ang mga Pilipino ay ma-organisa natin nang tama,” Padilla said.

(Will we wait until they actually land in Palawan before we change our Constitution and make amendments, and include the phrase “imminent danger”? It doesn’t mean that when “martial law” is declared, we’re going back to 1972. It’s not like that. Martial law is a means to properly organize Filipinos.)

Padilla had previously said he was in favor of reinstating the phrase in the Constitution.

Constitutional safeguards: Under the 1987 Constitution, the president may declare martial law only in case of “invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it.”

This was a constitutional safeguard to prevent a repeat of the dictatorship of the late Ferdinand E. Marcos, who cited the “imminent danger” posed by the communist insurgency as justification for placing the Philippines under martial law in 1972.

False claims debunked: The water cannon incident was China’s latest act of hostility against the Philippines despite a 2016 arbitral ruling that struck down Beijing’s claims over the entire South China Sea.

Since the incident, a number of false claims have circulated, which Rappler has previously debunked:

  1. FACT CHECK: Video of China’s South China Sea missile drills not new
  2. FACT CHECK: US not involved in water cannon incident in West Philippine Sea

  Andrei Santos/Rappler.com

Andrei Santos is a graduate of Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program. This fact check was reviewed by a member of Rappler’s research team and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program here.

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