Saturday, July 22, 2017

Ear to the ground

WHAT is “the situation on the ground”?

Today is the 60th day martial law was imposed by President Duterte in Mindanao.

Last May 23, the President reacted swiftly to the Maute Group’s occupation of Marawi City.

As commander-in-chief, the President can suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or impose martial law “in case of invasion or rebellion,” based on Section 18, Article VII of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

However, the 1987 Constitution is more specific than the 1935 version, which President Ferdinand Marcos used as the basis for passing Proclamation 1081 and putting the country for the first time under martial law.

As amended by the 1986 Constitutional Commission created by President Corazon Aquino, the 1987 Constitution imposes a limit on martial law: no more than 60 days.

Today is the deadline. Will martial law be lifted or extended?

Two weeks ago, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez proposed a five-year extension of martial law.

The 1987 Constitution permits the Congress to extend martial law if “the invasion or rebellion persists and public safety requires it”.

Yesterday, the two houses of Congress were expected to hold a special session to decide on the President’s request for extension of martial law in Mindanao. (Update: During the joint session on July 22, the Senate and the House voted to extend martial law until December 31: 261 for, 18 against.)

Sixty days ago, the Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf terrorists torched Marawi; robbed, raped, and killed civilians; and tried to create a “province of the Middle East-based Islamic State (IS) jihadist group in Southeast Asia.”

The deadline to suppress the rebellion has lapsed many times. Yesterday, the military again said it expected to retake Marawi “in a few more days.”

But lawlessness and the IS threat are apparently still serious enough for the military. National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said martial law will prevent some 700 jihadists from entering the country.

Despite its jingoistic rhetoric, the military says something that must be repeated: what is the “situation on the ground”?

Yesterday, in Iligan City, Tindeg Maranao (Stand Up Maranao) gathered some 100 evacuees to oppose the extension of martial law.

It is an opening salvo for the July 24 protests being organized by civil society groups around the country. On this day, a day after the 60-day deadline of martial law in Mindanao lapses, President Duterte will deliver his State of the Nation Address.

The evacuees call for an end to martial law and the end of military airstrikes in Marawi City.

On July 24, some 260,000 evacuees vow to return to Marawi City. “We will go home!”

What is the “situation on the ground”?

( 0917 3226131)

* First published in the July 23, 2017 issue of SunStar Cebu’s Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”

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