SEN. LEILA M. DE LIMA’S STATEMENT ON MARTIAL LAW EXTENSION

On Saturday, Congress will deliberate on whether to extend Martial Law up to December 2017, as requested by the President.

I wish that I would be able to participate in the session so as to be able to listen, first hand, to the proffered justifications, and incisively inquire into the merits, of the intended extension. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has yet to rule on my request for a legislative furlough.

Nevertheless, even without me there, I wish to see a joint session that is an honest-to-goodness and faithful discharge of the Congress's mandate to serve as a check against possible abuses of the Martial Law power of the Executive. I hope to see my fellow legislators ask searching questions and play devil's advocate -- especially given the length of extension reportedly intended, i.e., 'til the end of 2017, which to me, off-hand, seems egregiously excessive.

It behooves Congress to seriously dig deep, and not to abdicate the grave duty and mandate it has been given by the people.

Unfortunately, it is more likely that my hopes and wishes will be in vain. Granting the extension is probably already a foregone conclusion, especially if the joint session would not turn out to be a critical inquiry on putting an entire island under a prolonged state of military rule. Not to be ignored are reports that several sectors of Mindanao, including the business sector of Davao City -- the capital of Duterte's regime -- are clamoring for its lifting given its costly impact on tourism and investments.

The extension of martial law in the whole of Mindanao beyond another 60-day period is not only excessive, it is also unconstitutional. The Constitution does not contemplate that an extension can even go beyond the original period of 60 days. The wording of Section 18, Article VII conveys the common sense understanding that martial law cannot be extended beyond a second 60-day period, or a 150-day period until December 2017. This is all the more obvious if the conditions justifying martial law cannot be realistically projected to still exist in the entire months of August to December.

This is nothing short of a pre-emptive martial law, a notion that is constitutionally infirm, if not downright unconstitutional and illegal. Any extended martial law must be anchored only on a continuing state of actual rebellion, and cannot serve merely as a psychological weapon to quell anticipated further attacks and other acts of violence. Definitely it already smacks of authoritarian rule, when a President, even with his conscientious use of all intelligence information, cannot possibly predict if the conditions justifying military rule will continue to exist up to December.

Only God can predict the future. Not even Duterte, who is considered a god by his sycophants, can predict if martial law will still be justified beyond September, the end of a 60-day extension. This is why the Constitution only allows a 60-day period, and extendible for another 60-day maximum period, because not even a President can have the divine power of omniscience.

Pre-emptive martial law, like one that extends up to 150 days, or practically almost half of a year, only forebodes of creeping authoritarianism, and not the maintenance of public order. Our default social regime is still freedom and democracy under a civilian government. Any imposition of military rule that infringes on this status quo is severely restricted under our constitutional democratic set-up.

Duterte is slowly weaning us away from constitutional democracy, towards his authoritarian designs for a perpetual martial law. This is the harsh reality all democratic forces must fight and oppose to the end, if we are to preserve freedom and democracy under this tyrant.

Source: Senate of the Philippines

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