‘Lawless violence’ may be ground for martial law
A “series of attacks” mounted by communist insurgents may justify placing the entire country under martial law, raising a specter reminiscent of the Marcos-era military rule.
Members of the consultative committee created by President Rodrigo Duterte to recommend changes to the 1987 Constitution have unanimously approved the amendment to the provision on the imposition of martial law, retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Eduardo Nachura said on Wednesday.
Nachura, head of the subcommittee on the federal government structure, said the body also adopted the proposed changes in the provisions on the legislative and executive branches of government on Tuesday, the eve of the first anniversary of the President’s martial law declaration in Mindanao.
He said the proposed amendment added “lawless violence” as a reason for the President to impose martial law, apart from rebellion and invasion.
Within 48 hours
“Lawless violence does not have to be widespread as a ground [for the President] to declare martial law or suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus,” Nachura told a press briefing.
Under Section 18, Article VII of the Constitution, the Chief Executive may proclaim martial law “in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it … for a period not exceeding 60 days” and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.
The President would have to file a report to Congress within 48 hours after the martial law declaration.
Retired Lt. Gen. Ferdinand Bocobo, a committee member, said he made the suggestion in recognition of the present challenges to national security and the similar threats besetting other countries.
“We are adapting to what is the present situation and what we could foresee in the future. Terrorism and violent extremism are happening not only in the Philippines,” Bocobo said.
Lawless violence, he said, are acts related to terrorism and violent extremism.
Asked if attacks carried out by the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels were enough reason for a martial law declaration, Bocobo said such would have to be “simultaneous or large scale.”
The late dictator Ferdinand Marcos made use of the NPA attacks in justifying his proclamation of martial law in 1972, setting off the darkest period in the country’s history that was characterized by human rights abuses.
“For NPA attacks to fall under ‘terrorism’ as ground to declare martial law, these attacks should cause widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace,” Bocobo said.
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