*Statement of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Lanao del Sur Chapter on the extension of Martial Law
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious Most Merciful
We, the members of the IBP Lanao del Sur Chapter, were hoping against hope that Martial Law shall only be a painful memory after 31 December 2017. Alas, we were disheartened and disappointed when Congress extended Martial Law for another year, or until December 31, 2018.
For more than six (6) months, our people have practically lost everything. Yes, we do not discount the fact that the Maute-ISIS Group started it all. We are also thankful to the government for its efforts to crush the terrorist groups and keep the people safe. Even so, the implementation of Martial Law continues to cause hardship to our people.
The Martial Law under the 1987 Constitution supposedly has safeguards to prevent abuse by the military. Despite these safeguards, there are countless stories of missing persons and warrantless searches of Muslim homes in and out of Marawi City. We ask why homes in military-controlled areas were notoriously looted. We ask, if only the military had access to the Hall of Justice, then how come the offices and courtrooms were ransacked and destroyed. Stored evidence consisting of guns and drugs went missing. We ask why there has been no investigation on this matter to date. If the Hall of Justice was not spared from injustice and abuse, several other abuses – documented or not — have also been perpetrated to ordinary citizens. And so, to give us another year of Martial Law is intolerable for all of us.
To be sure, we are equally concerned with security threats in the region. We also want the government to suppress and prevent rebellion and lawless violence. But then, can it not be done through the Calling Out Power as provided for in the 1987 Constitution?
Article VII, Section 18 of the 1987 Constitution allows the President to call out the Armed Forces to suppress or prevent lawless violence and rebellion. This power is similar to ordinary police action and is not subject to the approval of Congress. The framers of the Constitution found the calling out power sufficient to address “imminent danger” of rebellion and insurrection. That is why, for fear of being abused, the framers removed “imminent danger” as a ground to declare martial law.
In contrast, Martial Law can only be declared in case of actual rebellion, when public safety requires it. As held in Lagman v. Sec. Medialdea, under martial law, the President is akin to a commanding general in a theatre of war. The President possesses police powers, which is normally under the legislature, to ensure public safety and in place of government agencies that, for the time being, are unable to cope with the condition in a locality.
These conditions are no longer present because: One, there is no more actual rebellion, but only looming threats thereof, and Two: the civilian government agencies in Marawi City and in other areas are already functional.
Flouting the Constitution and insisting on the extension of martial law will only exacerbate attempts of terrorists to recruit people by highlighting the evils of martial law abuses as propaganda to join them to rise up against the government.
No one – not even the President and the Congress – is above the Constitution. We are not ruled by kings or politicians; we are a government of laws and not of men. Verily, to insist on extending martial law when there are no more constitutional grounds to uphold it is to violate their sworn oaths to uphold the Constitution.
Our ancestral homes, torogans, and grand mosques were destroyed. Most of the buildings and streets as we remember it are gone; what remains of Marawi is within ourselves. We, the people of Marawi, are still in the process of healing and rebuilding our lives, our homes, and the future. For a while, we were hopeful because the fighting had already stopped and the government allowed many residents to return to their homes. Can we not rebuild our City without Martial Law?
In view of the unfortunate decision of Congress to extend martial law to another year, we call on the military to police their ranks and ensure that there are no more trampling on the rights of the people, especially the embattled Maranaos. We call on our people and our local leaders to be vigilant even against the slightest of terrorist threats and to help our government battle the spread of extremist ideologies.
As always, the IBP Lanao del Sur Chapter shall also be vigilant and willing to assist anyone whose rights have been violated by martial law abuses.
To our dear President, it is our stand that the extension of martial law is against our constitution. Nevertheless, for the good of our country and the Maranao people, whose blood you say runs in your veins, we hope that history will prove your decision correct.
Done this 14th day of December 2017 at Marawi City.
Aminoden L. Macalandap