[OPINION] Martial Law Part 4!

Senator Leila M. de Lima

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[OPINION] Martial Law Part 4!
It’s beginning to look a lot like this administration is incapable of solving a problem, not because the AFP lacks the ability or the will to, but because the political leaders lack the political will or incentive to solve it


‘Tis the Season once again. No, not the Christmas Season, but a much less festive, and a much more aggravating one: the Martial Law Extension Season. Asking for an extension of Martial Law seems to be another habit that Duterte has formed, apart from his other habits of failing to solve inflation, kowtowing to foreign powers, covering up drug smuggling and evading responsibility for ordering the slaughter of the poor. 

So it’s the season for Duterte Martial Law Part 4 – or so the Weakman in Malacañang hopes.  

 ‘Tis the Season once again for members of Congress to come together and deliberate whether or not to approve a third extension of the declaration of martial law over Mindanao. They say third time’s a charm, so maybe Congress will surprise us this time. However, most likely, Congress will probably rubber stamp another extension of martial law. 

But hopefully not without a bigger fight, not just from independent and opposition lawmakers, but also from the Filipino people. Because after 3 installments and more than one and a half years of martial law, there is still one pressing question that remains unanswered: What martial law powers has the AFP been using all this time, and what martial law powers does it intend to use moving forward? 

Without an answer to that question, there is no way that the AFP, much less Duterte himself or Congress or the Supreme Court, can claim that there is sufficient basis to extend martial law. If there’s a bottle of pills on a table and you don’t know what those pills could do, then there is no way you can tell whether they can cure the flu. It’s as simple as that. 

We have raised this question over and over, and we have not gotten any real answer, much less a satisfactory one, to justify the extension of martial law.

In fact, during the oral arguments before the Supreme Court earlier this year, the AFP Chief of Staff admitted that they “are not asking for extra powers.” Even when pressed to explain what makes martial law necessary, all that the AFP Chief of Staff could say is that it makes cooperation among concerned agencies faster, such as the sharing of intelligence information. 

Cooperation and sharing of information are plain and simple executive powers that the President already possesses. 

The truth of the matter is that the declaration of martial law provides no additional mandate that he does not already possess under the Constitution to address the issue of inefficiency. He just has to know what to do with them. Is Duterte such a weak leader that, even after one and a half years of trying, he still can’t manage to get his officials in the executive and the military to share information and cooperate with one another?

Because if that’s not the case, why ask for another extension?  

According to the AFP’s data earlier this year, there were a total of 537 barangays that were controlled by communist rebels, Dawlah Islamiyah, the BIFF, and the ASG. The total number of barangays in Mindanao is 8,813, so 537 out of 8,813 barangays account for 6.09% of the total barangays.  By asking for an extension 12 months later, is he saying that the AFP has been so ineffective that it failed to neutralize this threat over the course of one whole year? 

He can’t claim that, of course, because it is obviously untrue. The AFP has been effective. It has clearly been successful in eliminating the threats against public safety, even without need to resort to any special or extraordinary power under martial law. 

So why does Duterte still need it? Obviously the AFP is not the one that is weak and inadequate. 

It’s beginning to look a lot like this administration is incapable of solving a problem, not because the AFP lacks the ability or the will to, but because the political leaders lack the political will or incentive to solve it.

So instead of discussing the extension of martial law, maybe it is time to demand the resignation of the man who is incapable of eliminating the need for martial law even after one and half years. Maybe it’s time for him to admit his inadequacies and that he isn’t really the right man for the job. That for all his prowess at bullying and butchering the weak, he really knows nothing about leadership. Maybe it’s time to surrender the post so that a better person can do the job right. Because by his own admission, he has failed. 

So maybe, instead of Duterte Martial Law Part 4, it’s time for Duterte: The Final Days. 

But he won’t do that. And he and his cronies will proceed with extending martial law unnecessarily. Because one thing they said is true, martial law has a psychological effect. What they don’t say is that it is a psychological effect that is, apparently and by their own admission, ineffective against hardened rebels and terrorists, but nonetheless highly effective against the citizenry.  

Martial law is not about curbing threats against the public. It is precisely about terrorizing the public into submission. They have decided that fear – especially during an election season – is the most useful weapon of the incumbent. After all, how free and honest would the elections be if the people are under threat of state-sponsored terrorism?

So martial law will be extended. Because administration candidates desperately need to get elected. The Duterte Administration desperately needs to hold on to the power it has over the Filipino nation. Maybe, next year, when they again ask for an extension (whether in terms of time or geographical scope), or when the time comes for important issues to be tackled (like GMA’s version of charter change, the return of the pork barrel,TRAIN Law Part 2, the dismissal of cases against corrupt government officials, the tied loans from China), they can maneuver without any effective opposition from the Filipino people. Who knows, perhaps Bong Go might even be the Senate President by then.

So, really, this is martial law in aid of continued oppression. – Rappler.com

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