In a foreign gathering of Christian Democrats some years ago, I asked a German friend without much tact, “If these are the democrats, where are the Christians?” Political correctness and moral relativism were already on the rise, and while Westerners raged against African tribal women for mutilating their genitals, they did not mind unborn babies being mangled inside their mothers’ wombs in the name of women’s “rights.” I thought this was where Christian democracy ought to take a stand, but there seemed not enough Christians ready to die for it.
Since then human life, the family and marriage—the most important values and institutions for the survival and progress of humankind—have been debased, as governments, activist courts, and hedonist institutions usurped the teachings of the Gospel and the Church to create a culture increasingly hostile to God and all things related to God. To a great extent, even in our country, Christmas itself has been paganized. Until Christmas day, everyone was talking about Christmas and nothing else, but not many were sincerely looking for Christ.
What the headlines tell us
The Duterte government was on top of this counter-Christian effort, as it focused the nation’s attention on its pursuit of unaccountable political power and its uninterrupted effort to “neutralize” suspects in its war on drugs. On Christmas day, the national headlines were about President Rodrigo Duterte wanting to rewrite the martial law provision of the Constitution, and his call on top officials of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the Anti-Money Laundering Council to resign for failing to support his effort to build up cases against Sen. Leila de Lima, whom he has accused of alleged involvement in the drugs trade inside the New Bilibid Prisons when she was still B. S. Aquino 3rd’s secretary of justice.
A few days ago, Malacañang welcomed the announcement of the Chinese government that it is ready to support DU30’s law enforcement forces with modern weapons for their anti-drugs war. At the same time, DU30’s rant against the United Nations and American “idiots” continues. De Lima has attributed all this to DU30’s admitted use of Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid said to be 50 times more powerful than heroin, and used by doctors to treat cancer patients for pain. DU30 says he has no cancer, but suffers from Buerger’s disease, Barrett’s esophagus, constant severe migraine and pain in the spinal column.
DU30’s Christmas proposals have temporarily quieted the public on the proposed imposition of the death penalty, which his puppet Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez was earlier prepared to railroad in the House of Representatives as his “Christmas gift” to the Filipino people and to DU30. This would legalize the de facto death penalty, which has already killed 6,000 drug suspects, without due process and the rule of law. The martial law proposal and the threat to the Central Bank and AMLC authorities have shifted the nation’s attention away from the Christian spirit of the season, into serious concerns about DU30’s state of mind.
It appears that while DU30 talks every now and then about his presidency being a mistake, and wanting to step down as soon as possible, he is at bottom more deeply interested in a total consolidation of power to silence all opposition to his despotic rule. Why should martial law become a matter of urgent concern, if he is not at all interested in it as one of his options? From the very beginning, he has been talking of establishing a “revolutionary government,” while his communist-in-chief in the Cabinet, Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr., was busy trying to create the grassroots base for it, through his Kilusang Pagbabago, whose regional coordinators are all members of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Obviously Evasco has come to realize that replacing the existing structure with a communist one is not going to be a “piece of cake,” and DU30 must have realized that he cannot possibly declare a revolutionary government without first abolishing the Constitution, and his own position as President and commander-in-chief. In which case, somebody else might seize power from him. This is probably where a repackaged martial law could come in.
DU30 and martial law
He is not totally wrong in his critique of martial law under the 1987 Constitution. In a significant lecture at the University of the Philippines, former Justice Secretary Estelito Mendoza, arguably the country’s most distinguished lawyer, points out that the inherent contradictions in this provision have rendered it dysfunctional. We shall turn to this now.
Under Section 10 (2), Article VII of the 1935 Constitution, “The President shall be 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, insurrection, or rebellion. In case of invasion, insurrection or rebellion, or imminent danger thereof, when the public safety requires it, he may suspend the writ of habeas corpus, or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law.”
This was the constitutional provision President Ferdinand Marcos invoked when he declared martial law on Sept. 21, 1972 to turn back the communist armed rebellion which had “assumed the magnitude of an actual state of war against our people and the Republic of the Philippines.” Martial law was lifted in 1980, but it failed to dismantle the CPP/NPA/NDF rebellion, whose leadership sought official sanctuary in Utrecht, Netherlands, but whose armed struggle continued in the countryside to this day.
In 1986, Cory Aquino’s revolutionary government abolished the 1973 Marcos Constitution, which carried over the martial law provision of the 1935 Constitution except for a slight change which substituted “Prime Minister” for “President” as the commander-in-chief. Cory’s appointive constitutional commission then rewrote the provision as follows:
“Article VII, Sec. 18. The President shall be 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. In case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he may, for a period not exceeding sixty days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law. Within forty-eight hours from the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, the President shall submit the 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 Congress, if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it.
“The Congress, if not in session, shall, within twenty-four hours following such proclamation or suspension, convene in accordance with its rules without need of a call.
“The Supreme Court may review, in an appropriate proceeding filed by any citizen, the sufficiency of the factual basis of the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ or the extension thereof, and must promulgate its decision thereon within thirty days from its filing.
“A state of martial law does not suspend the operation of the Constitution, nor supplant the functioning of the civil courts or legislative assemblies, nor authorize the conferment of jurisdiction on military courts and agencies over civilian courts when civil courts are able to function, nor automatically suspend the privilege of the writ. The suspension of the privilege of the writ shall apply only to persons judicially charged for rebellion or offenses inherent in or directly connected with invasion.
“During the suspension of the privilege of the writ, any person thus arrested or detained shall be judicially charged within three days, otherwise he shall be released.”
DU30 is right, but he’s not the solution
DU30 is absolutely right to denounce the existing provision as an awful lot of nonsense. It is meant not to function. But whether this is the time to raise it, and whether DU30 should be the one to raise it is the question. Under the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions, the President or Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief may declare martial law “in case of invasion, insurrection, or rebellion, or imminent danger thereof, when the public safety requires it.” The mere existence of “imminent danger” when the public safety requires it is a sufficient basis for the proclamation.
In the present Constitution, there has to be actual invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, for the President to declare martial law. While the invasion or rebellion rages, the Congress is supposed to meet, without need of call, within 24 hours, the President to report to the Congress within 48 hours, and the Congress can revoke the proclamation, which revocation cannot be set aside by the President. The Supreme Court is mandated to act within 30 days on any question raised about the proclamation by any citizen.
The so-called commander-in-chief power is effectively placed under Congress, and it expires in 60 days even if the invasion or rebellion rages on. Can you imagine a group of grade schoolers composing anything more insane? This is one of the reasons we need to revise the Constitution, but the people, through their elected delegates, must do it, not the puppet Congress acting as surrogate of the President, who has no constitutional role to play in revising or amending the Constitution.
Since there is no risk of the country being invaded, and the communists have become coalition partners of the government, and peace talks are ongoing with the Moro rebellion, there is no reason for us to be talking of martial law as a response to invasion or rebellion.
Bullying the BSP and AMLC officials
With respect to DU30’s demand that BSP and AMLC top officials resign if they cannot please him, it is very clear we can have no illusions about his dictatorial powers. If he could have 6,000 drug suspects killed without due process, and detain more than 800,000 beyond the three-day period allowed by the suspension of the privilege of habeas corpus for those who have not been formally charged of any crime, then he obviously believes he could bully out of office anyone with a fixed term just by telling them to vacate.
Indeed, AMLC officials played politics and alowed themselves to be used during Erap Estrada’s and the late former Chief Justice Renato Corona’s impeachment trials. And Governor Tetangco has tried to curry favor with Malacañang by printing new currency bills under the new President’s signature. But not only has he a fixed term, he also draws a basic annual salary of P13 million against the President’s P4 million. This is no laughing matter.
Preparing for civil war?
Back to the drug war, there is cause for greater concern in the face of China’s offer of modern weapons to arm our policemen fighting this war. We do not need more weapons. Our so-called drug war is a one-sided war, only the police and the so-called “vigilantes” are doing the killing. Unlike in Latin America, where the drug cartels engage government forces in armed battles, those who have been killed here were totally unarmed, except after the killing when a caliber 38 revolver makes its appearance in the hands of the victim. We do not therefore need to arm the police more.
Serious analysts are concerned that Evasco and company are preparing the nation not for a wider counter-narcotics war, but for a “civil war.”