The Senate disappoints #MartialLaw

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KATRINA STUART SANTIAGO

LOST all of Tuesday this week to the Senate.

The day started with news of Senate Resolution 388 affirming and supporting martial law as declared in all of Mindanao by President Duterte. What we knew was that 15 senators were signing the resolution, excluding the Senate minority of five people—Bam Aquino, Franklin Drilon, Risa Hontiveros, Kiko Pangilinan and Antonio Trillanes—and Grace Poe and Chiz Escudero whose names weren’t on the released copy of the resolution.

A questionable report
Resolution 388 cites some parts of the President’s report on the martial law declaration, talking about “violent acts” committed by the Maute terrorist group, and the takeover of a hospital in Marawi.

But at this point, major parts of the President’s narrative about why martial law was needed at all, had already been discredited. Among others: no, the chief of police of Malabang town is alive and had not at all been beheaded (SunStar CDO, May 26); no, the Amai Pakpak Medical Center had not been taken over by Maute (Inquirer.net, May 28).


A fact-check by journalist Janvic Mateo, who is on the ground, is more damning. Only one of the three schools listed in the report had in fact been burned down as of May 24; no faculty members of Dansalan College were killed, and no civilian casualties declared as of May 25 – the day the report was submitted; the Land Bank of the Philippines branch had not been ransacked.

Here were 15 senators affirming the declaration of martial law over all of Mindanao, even as the basis for its declaration in Marawi alone has been put into question.

But it seems our senators weren’t asking questions. Resolution 388 would pass in the Senate with the support of 17 senators.

The Senate minority
In the early afternoon of Tuesday, as expected of the well-oiled machine that is the Liberal Party, the Senate minority held a press conference, which was covered live only by CNN Philippines – which also needed to cut it short to go back to regular programming. It was still better than ANC and DZMM Teleradyo which did not break programming at all; it was at this press conference that one learned of what went on during the session between the Senate and the members of the AFP.

According to the presscon’s official transcript on the Senate website, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, when asked if the military could contain Maute without martial law, had replied in the affirmative: the military could deal with Maute without martial law being declared.

But the next thing they knew the President had already declared martial law, and they were required to implement it.

Asked if any of the security officials facing the Senate in the briefing had recommended the declaration of martial law, none of them responded in the affirmative.

After declaring their utmost support for the military fighting this war against terror, the Senate minority clarified that this was not about questioning whether or not martial law needed to be declared, but mainly about the insistence on convening Congress in a joint session, as required by the Constitution, so that these questions might be discussed.

This was of course going to be a losing battle. I did not vote for any of the five senators in the minority. On Tuesday, I was thanking the heavens they were there.

Eyes on the Senate
Watching our senators in plenary discussing the martial law declaration is probably the single most infuriating thing I will watch all week.

Because there is nothing like seeing Miguel Zubiri and Richard Gordon, on performance level for nationwide television, spewing platitudes and motherhood statements about nation, about supporting the President, supporting our troops! asking why we must waste our time on having a joint session when there are more important things to do!

Gordon we expect to be all rhetoric, no substance – he does that well. Zubiri though seemed almost crazed, even saying absurd things like: Labanan ito sa social media! and I’m talking to the trolls! like he actually knows who those trolls are, and like it is “social media” that is at all affected by the declaration of martial law and the bombing of cities.

When your senators are so affected by what is said by the minority on social media, where people can be paid to say things, and trends and likes and shares can be a matter of how much money you spend on boosting and advertising, then we know there’s something wrong. Evidence A: Zubiri.

The opposite of that is the senator who just doesn’t give a flying f**k about what’s going on, who cannot even keep up with what’s happening in front of him, much less what’s happening outside the Senate hall. It is he who thinks that having already spent four hours listening to the AFP briefing on martial law, that it was already enough time wasted on this issue.

“No need to convene pa. For what? For media coverage? Mileage? Hindi na kailangan. Marami pa tayong gagawin.”

Exhibit B: Manny Pacquiao. Who is so busy training for a boxing match, and who will not be able to defend any of the things he stands for to save his life.

The real independents
What gave me hope though, and probably the bigger surprise, was this: while the majority vote was clear to affirm martial law and pass Resolution 388, the vote for Resolution 390 was different.

Those who voted to convene the joint session was not limited to the minority of five, but also included four other senators: Escudero, Win Gatchalian, Poe and Ralph Recto. Joel Villanueva was not present for the vote, but sent word he would’ve voted “yes” to the joint session as well.

These five to me are probably the most interesting of the senators at this point, voting beyond party loyalties and outside of the majority rule, and forcing upon us a more complex discussion of martial law in the process (read the transcripts of their explanations for their votes). These are the ones we should be watching, because they might be all that we have given a Senate that is devoid of any critical, independent stance from party politics and loyalty – the Liberal Party minority included.

On week 2 of martial law in Mindanao, I will depend on these senators for some sense of control, and sanity.

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9 Comments

  1. Romeo Santos on

    This is just proven that we have senators who are all yes man because they are all coward and scared to the president. these senators are not true representative of the Filipino people.

  2. Why don’t you just support your current government? I guess you also did that for the previous administrations. In my opinion, the Martial Law right now does not abuse people. Maybe it was the only option for PDuterte to protect the Filipino people. Your point is the communication with the president is inaccurate — but right now, people are dying. PDuterte does not have time to blame people below him. He’s taking FULL responsibility and that’s leadership. Next time, if you’ll write to complain, please also include SOLUTIONS.

  3. Well written and observed.
    This issue has nothing to do with yellow or what so ever.
    Strange things are going on. A lot of false info from the Palace and the president declares ML on own hand, without the consult of the military.
    Beside this. First statements where there supposed to be 100 rebels, now over 80 are declared dead( killed) so less than 20 remain and still the AFP is struggling to get them out. hmmmm.
    Two things can be in order here.
    1) this issue is much bigger than reported, much more rebels are fighting and ML is declared on correct basis.
    2) strange games are going on from the palace to get more power by declaring ML on false basis.

    What also is difficult to understand. The help he asked from MNLF and MILF. Sounds like US asking Al Quaida to help against ISIS????? Beside that, cant the military handle it??? Are they incapable of dealing with this ” small” issue??

    • Jay Jumangit on

      Are you really an observer? You call the Marawi Siege a “small issue”? It is a matter of national security. What the president do is to contain the crisis, not to leak it to any other part of our country. Why don’t you go here in Mindanao, and tell us that ML is not needed.

  4. This opinion is truly a claim and projection of trumpeting for people who can’t accept that they were losers in last election. Practically highlighting the noisy minions of Loida in New York.

    Why always so negative of this martial law declaration- the motive from 1972 and today 2017 is a big difference. Marcos martial law is based on 1937 constitution and the declaration of martial law of present govt is based on Cory’s constitution with enough safeguard for those having martial law phobia including this columnist..

    This phobia is based on speculation and becomes a propaganda opinion for the ” well oiled LP daw’ …they lost their caused after that hurrah about pdaf, dap, saf and mrt scandal..

    The motive now is different but truly to control terrorism…do you still living in the past and you believe that ML of duterte is designed to perpetuate in power…purely a hot air balloon propaganda of ML phobia epidemic…from this writer and Loser Party..

    see for the big difference- Marcos ML – media were padlock, arrest of oppositions personality, control of utilities…May I ask the writer – are these happening today with Duterte’s ML?…

    Stop this ML phobia stupidity….you were saying that it is only Marawi…just asking have you tried living in Mindanao?…have you noticed the threat with what happened in Bohol, Davao, Pagadian, Zamboanga, and other areas in Mindanao…

    It is high now to cut this problem of terrorism in Mindanao..I’m from Mindanao and all my family are supporting it- this is what we need this time..

    I have been a witness of cathedral bombing in Davao… STOP this short sighted opinion whose cornea always looking to be what is glaring yellow!…Stop putting political colour of this ML..

    • Romy Velezquez on

      Al, it seems like it is high time now to separate Mindanao from the idiots of Imperial Manila. Let’s go for the Federal Republic of Mindanao.

  5. The five Senators are not acting for the Nation. They are only trying to keep the LP afloat by opposing anything DU30 does. If the government gives money and rebuilds Marawi, they will oppose that also. If they were acting on behalf of the people they may have gotten some support. As it stands now, they are just like the boy who cried wolf so many times. No one believes in them.

  6. You’re disappointed because the national policies espoused by the current administration do not conform to your yellow liberal ideals. Because in your world, only your views matter and no one else’s.