Sereno warns against abuse of martial law powers
Avoid the historical sins committed by the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos and follow the provisions of martial law in the 1987 Constitution to reap its benefits.
This was the message of Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno in her speech at commencement exercises Friday morning at the Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City, saying that the power to declare martial law and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus are expressly granted to the President under the 1987 Constitution “in case of invasion or rebellion.”
Duterte declared a 60-day martial law in Mindanao following the terror attack of the Maute group in Marawi. The President said he is mulling extending martial law to Visayas because of its proximity to Mindanao, and even to the entire Philippines if the need arises.
The term “martial law,” Sereno said creates serious concerns among the public given the human rights abuses committed when Marcos declared martial law in the 1970s.
“If President Duterte and the government authorities avoid the gross historical sins of Mister Marcos and his agents, then our country might reap the benefits of the legitimate use of the provision on martial law in the 1987 Constitution,” Sereno said.
She pointed out that the Constitution “absolutely prohibits” the particular kind of martial law committed in 1972 where widespread human rights abuses such as murder, rape, torture were committed against those who went against the government.
Citing various Supreme Court decisions, she mentioned the ill-effects of martial law. Aside from human rights abuses, she mentioned widespread corruption, poverty and increase in foreign debt.
“Suffice it to say that the martial law power is an immense power that can be used for good, to solve defined emergencies; but all earthly powers when abused can result in oppression,” the Chief Justice said.
She said “such power must be exercised the way Christ exercised his leadership, by being a servant first, to the Father and to His brothers and sisters.” IDL/rga