Opinion polls about martial law
President Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao last May 23 will, of course, be on the agenda for the Social Weather Survey for the second quarter of 2017. While awaiting its findings, let us bear in mind what past surveys have shown.
- Martial law has never been a popular idea. In June 1985, while Ferdinand Marcos was still effectively a dictator, the sociopolitical survey of the Bishops-Businessmen’s Conference—precursor of the Social Weather Surveys—asked a representative national sample of 2,000 adults whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement “Given the current situation of the Philippines today, it will help to declare martial law.” This probe has been repeated by SWS five times so far.
The 1985 survey found Filipinos evenly split: 37 percent agreed, 33 percent disagreed, and the rest were in between. The net agreement of +4, or Neutral, is the strongest sentiment SWS has ever found for martial law.
In July 1993, the percentages of agreement and disagreement were 28 and 50, or net -22, which SWS considers Moderate Opposition (-10 to -29). In January 1996, the two percentages were 20 and 67, or net -46, which we classify as Strong Opposition (-30 to -49). There continued to be Strong Opposition in February 2000 (net -43), April 2001 (net -40), and March 2003 (net -37).
In March 2003, incidentally, the balance of opinion on the advisability of martial law was net -37 in the National Capital Region, net -40 in the Balance of Luzon, net -39 in Visayas, and net -32 in Mindanao. Opposition was strong everywhere.
- In 1986, Filipinos wanted a declaration of martial law to have legislative permission. The Social Weather Survey of October 4-29, 1986—when the present Constitution was still being drafted—included this agree/disagree item: “In the new constitution, the President of the Philippines should not be given the power to declare martial law without the permission of the national assembly.”
The 1986 survey found that 54 percent agreed and 28 percent disagreed, implying Moderate Support of net +25 (correctly rounded). The net opinions were +22 in NCR, +13 in Balance-Luzon, +30 in the Visayas, and +44 in Mindanao—i.e., Moderate in Luzon as a whole (which carried the national average), but Strong in the Visayas and Mindanao. The survey also found greater support for the requirement among more educated respondents.
We know now, of course, that what the final version of the present Constitution, approved in February 1987, gave to Congress was the authority to revoke martial law, once declared. The 1987 Constitution does not say that the declaration itself needs a congressional permit.
- Filipino Muslims trust the MILF and MNLF, but not the Abu Sayyaf. I think that the attitudes of Filipinos toward martial law in Mindanao are bound to be influenced by their feelings toward the Abu Sayyaf and Maute Group in particular, which have been identified as the government’s adversaries in the Marawi City rebellion. SWS has quite a few surveys about trust in the various Moro rebel groups (except for the Maute Group, which is new), and is compiling them for release soon.
In March 2017, the net trust ratings of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (-39) and the Moro National Liberation Front (-38) were Very Bad among Filipinos as a whole, which is not surprising. Among Filipino Muslims, on the other hand, trust in the MILF (+74) was Excellent, and trust in the MNLF (+50) was Very Good.
In the case of the Abu Sayyaf, however, the March 2017 net trust was -62 among all Filipinos and -64 among Filipino Muslims—i.e., Very Bad among both groups. The Marawi rebellion is not likely to improve their numbers.
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