Sisyphus’ Lament

Extend martial law after rebels all dead?

/ 05:09 AM December 11, 2017

Seven months into martial law, it is clear Filipinos do not know or do not care how our Constitution is supposed to protect us.

Sen. Franklin Drilon protested that it is unconstitutional to extend martial law after the shooting in Marawi City has long stopped.


But we ignored him. His crucial, obvious point was but an afterthought at the bottom of news reports.

Daenerys Targaryen does not order “dracarys” after the battle is won. Lebron James does not shoot after the buzzer sounds. So why would we extend martial law after the rebellion was crushed?


Our collective ignorance peaked after the Lagman decision allowing martial law in all of Mindanao.

Our 1987 Constitution only allows martial law if there is actual rebellion, meaning actual shots fired to overthrow our government.

This rule emphasizes “actual.” Martial law merely for the threat of rebellion was prohibited after Marcos, or it would be too easy to declare martial law like Marcos.

Thus, the Lagman case revolved around whether there was actual rebellion in all of Mindanao, even though the actual shooting was only in Marawi.

Except for Justice Marvic Leonen, all justices accepted there could be actual rebellion in Marawi itself. This was the decision’s starting point.

The majority deferred to the President’s judgment that the rebellion covered all of Mindanao, given armed groups’ mobility and that groups in other provinces might join the fighting.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa found this speculative. They would limit martial law to only Lanao del Sur. Frustratingly, the most ignorant in media dismissed them as “partial” dissenters.


The same ignorant mediamen hyped Leonen’s as the only “true” dissent. He rejected martial law even in Marawi, discarding the actual rebellion framework for a hodgepodge of unrelated, doctrinally strained theories.

The hype and ignorance sidelined the key actual rebellion debate. Now, faced with a second martial law extension, we remain collectively ignorant as to why the context is totally different if the actual shooting is now over.

We must resolve two crucial problems. First, how would there be actual rebellion now?

The need to rebuild Marawi is not it, or we could declare martial law after Supertyphoon “Yolanda.”

Renewed extremist recruitment and threats of future attacks are not actual rebellion, either. The New People’s Army obviously cannot be a ground for extension because it was not a ground for the initial declaration.

But second and far more important, even if the factual basis existed, what new powers would martial law give now that the shooting has stopped?

Our 1987 Constitution now limits martial law to the military administering a combat zone where civilian government has collapsed. Solicitor General Jose Calida himself argued in the Lagman hearings that it is now a symbolic exclamation point. It grants no actual powers outside combat zones.

Think about it. Even without martial law, we can rebuild Marawi and even deploy troops to help, as we have done for every calamity.

Even without martial law, we can arrest suspected rebels. The arrest order against suspected Maute group members was based on the “continuing crime” in criminal law doctrine and not martial law, which is why it applied outside Mindanao.

The military may launch offensives. They did so against the NPA, even outside Mindanao.

We may deploy troops to guard Marawi, although they need to coordinate with the mayor.

Military intelligence may monitor suspected terrorist recruitment, as they were before fighting broke out in Marawi.

Visualizing every possible scenario, one can only conclude that if the actual fighting has stopped, martial law would have a mere symbolic effect. It cannot authorize anything our government does not already have the power to do.

Then what are we debating? What would be the point of extending martial law other than for show? As is par for the course, it seems only Drilon has thought this through.

React: [email protected], Twitter @oscarfbtan, facebook.com/OscarFranklinTan.

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TAGS: Franklin Drilon, Marawi siege, Mindanao martial law, Oscar Franklin Tan, Sisyphus’ Lament
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