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Commentary

Is martial law in the offing?

/ 01:59 AM December 03, 2016

Filipinos have been through this before: the Plaza Miranda bombing in 1971, the “terrorist bombings” in Metro Manila and the faked ambush of then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile in the following year, which culminated in the imposition of martial law in September 1972.

With the benefit of historical hindsight, we can now see how a carefully crafted scenario of lawlessness and violence was planned and orchestrated by Ferdinand Marcos and his minions to justify the imposition of martial law. It worked in 1972. Will it work in 2016?

Recent events reveal a rather troubling narrative that suggests an inevitable climax: martial law 2.0. While President Duterte has flatly denied that he would declare martial law, the unfolding events tell a different story.

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After the bombing of the Davao market last September, the President put the entire country under a state of lawlessness. He said this was needed to allow the military to “complement and supplement” the capabilities of the Philippine National Police.

Further stoking suspicion, his legal adviser Salvador Panelo disclosed that the declaration of the state of lawlessness was conceived way before the Davao bombing. But his spokespersons quickly pointed out that the declaration of the state of lawlessness is not tantamount to declaring martial law; they also promised that there would be no suspension of civil rights.

Then in November, the President said he may be forced to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus if the lawlessness in Mindanao would not dissipate.

Later, as though to contain the mounting backlash, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said the suspension of the privilege was “just an idea.”

Some discount these repeated pronouncements of peril as part of Mr. Duterte’s “hyperbolic style of speaking.” But no keen observer of Philippine affairs can deny that the administration seems to be painting a grim picture, a situation that could be conveniently used to justify stronger courses of action.

And in the past week alone, the grim picture became darker.

On Nov. 28, police found an improvised explosive device (IED) near the US Embassy in Manila. The next day, nine soldiers were wounded in an ambush in Marawi City, supposedly mounted by the terrorist Maute group.

On Dec. 1, PNP Director General Ronald dela Rosa announced that the entire country is now under “terror alert level 3,” and warned the public to expect tighter security checkpoints and raids on suspected combatants.

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He linked the discovery of the IED near the US Embassy and the ambush in Marawi, saying the two suspects arrested by police—identified as Rashid Kilala and Jiaher Guinar—had admitted to planning the foiled bombing, which was supposedly a diversionary tactic meant for the military to shift attention away from the Maute fighters in Mindanao. Dela Rosa further claimed that the suspects in the foiled bombing, just like the Maute group, are linked to the Islamic State.

With these developments, the question arises: Is the administration conditioning the public for the eventual declaration of martial law? Despite the President’s denial, the details remind us of the tactics Marcos employed to justify his imposition of martial law.

Mr. Duterte has received much flak for allowing the Marcos family to bury the dictator’s remains in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. It seems, however, that he is not yet done emulating the late strongman. For if he is indeed preparing to declare martial law in the supposed name of law and order, then he is clearly following the Marcos playbook.

Marjohara Tucay is the national president of Kabataan Partylist.

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TAGS: Ferdinand Marcos, Islamic State, Juan Ponce Enrile, martial law, Maute group, Plaza Miranda, plaza Miranda bombing, Terrorist Bombings
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