Martial law in Mindanao ‘dress rehearsal’ for authoritarian rule -- Monsod

Lawyer Christian Monsod (Photo from Ateneo de Manila University website: www.ateneo.edu)

One of the framers of the 1987 Constitution warned that President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao might pave the way for a major overhaul of the 1987 Constitution that would allow for a one-man rule.

Lawyer Christian Monsod, a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, said there was a “a bigger agenda” in the declaration of martial law, which he said was uncalled for.

“It’s a dress rehearsal for authoritarian government,” Monsod told VERA Files. “I don’t know how he’ll do it, whether he will change the Constitution or not, but he will use the same reasons (as Marcos).”

The late dictator Ferdinand Marcos justified his declaration of martial in 1972 by citing the communist insurrection and Muslim rebellion. But he clung to power after those problems were supposedly addressed, staying in office two decades.

Monsod echoed the sentiments of some critics of martial rule, who have said that it was not the proper response to the situation that erupted when elements of the Dawlah Islamiya Philippines, more commonly known as “Maute group,” attacked on some parts of Marawi City on May 23.

The president could have first exhausted the option of tapping the armed forces to address lawless violence, just as presidents after the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos had done, Monsod said.

In a seven-page report submitted to Congress, Duterte called the attacks an “ongoing rebellion, if not the seeds of invasion” to justify his declaration of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus “until such time the rebellion is completely quelled.”

But the attacks of Maute, a self-proclaimed sympathizer of extremist group Islamic State of Isis and Syria (ISIS), constitute neither a rebellion or invasion as the 1987 Constitution requires, Monsod said.

Former colonel and senator Gringo Honasan has said the Marawi clashes are a problem of lack of coordination and intelligence in the military.

“(T)hat is an issue of governance. It has nothing to do with rebellion,” Monsod said, lamenting the “lack of logic” behind the proclamation of martial law.

“You see, martial law involves extraordinary powers to the president to take over functions that civil government and other departments of government would be exercising otherwise,” Monsod said.

“(W)hen (Duterte was) asked how long (martial law) would take, he says, 60 days, six months, six years, but he says you know, as long as we have not solved our problems--and that’s open-ended,” Monsod said.

There must be “a bigger agenda,” he said, which is federalism and eventually overhauling the Constitution to introduce authoritarianism which takes away the term limits.

“Marcos seems to be an idol of President Duterte. He thinks martial law was good, a solution not just to rebellion but to all problems,” Monsod added.

Declaring martial law has been a recurring theme in Duterte’s speeches. He once even lashed out at Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno for allegedly meddling with his administration’s war on drugs, and threatened her that he would declare martial law. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte wants to declare martial law?)

Such statements of Duterte only show that he has always been very critical of the 1987 Constitution, saying he wants to be able to declare martial law anytime, Monsod said.

The problem of extremism and the attractiveness of the idea of a caliphate, Monsod said, will take more time than Duterte’s 60-day martial law deadline.

“And when he says I will step down here, and I will step down there, I think it is not fair for him to tell the country or make the country believe that he can solve the problem in 60 days, or even six months or six years.”

Once amended to make it suitable to a president, the Constitution would make it easy to introduce authoritarianism, Monsod said.

“What happens if he dies? We’ve already changed the Constitution.”

Monsod says it is important for people to petition the Supreme Court to review the sufficiency of the factual basis of declaring martial law, which any citizen is entitled to do under the 1987 Constitution.

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