A Top Level Policy Dialogue entitled “Martial Law: Implications and Complications” was held on the afternoon of June 2, 2107 at the Microtel Technohub (Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City).
Keen interest on the topic has been around since President Duterte declared Martial Law in Mindanao on May 23, 2017 following the violent clashes between government forces and the renegade Maute group in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.
The first presentation was on “Martial Law and the Commander-in-Chief: Powers Under the Constitution” by Atty. Marlon Manuel (ALG National Coordinator). In it, he goes back to the Constitutional basis for a declaration of Martial Law in the country. He discussed President Duterte’s Proclamation No. 216 (which declared Martial Law and suspended the privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus in Mindanao) and then cited several provisions of the Constitution which describes the limitations in declaring Martial Law.
The presentation was followed by a panel discussion. The first to talk was Dr. Nymia Pimentel-Simbulan of PhilRights. She said that she never imagined that we would ever experience Martial Law for a second time, after what the country has been through. She discussed several reasons why she is against Martial Law.
The next to discuss was Atty. Jacqueline de Guia of the Commission on Human Rights. She mentioned that the CHR was created by the 1987 Constitution mainly as a response to the countless human rights violations committed under Marcos’ Martial Law. She presented the CHR’s policy with regards to President Duterte’s Martial Law in Mindanao declaration.
The next to discuss was Major Eduardo Esquivias of the AFP Human Rights Office. Although he said that an official spokesperson for the AFP would be able to say a lot more (he could only speak in behalf of the AFP HRO), he stressed that the military will still adhere to the rule of law and compliance to human rights laws, whether there is Martial Law or not. He said that their office is working closely with the CHR, particularly on investigation and prosecution of reported human rights violations cases which are committed by AFP personnel. He enjoined the people to report to their office any human rights violation committed by their personnel.
The next to speak was from a delegation of internally-displaced persons from Marawi City. A representative, Sittie Janine Gamao, shared a short video clip during the Marawi siege, and discussed how their lives have changed as a result of the violence they endured. The moderator expressed that in Marawi, the people are still in need of food, water, medicines, blankets, utensils, and other items.
An Open Forum followed. Joining the panel for the Open Forum was PSSupt Bartolome Bustamante from the QCPD. During the Open Forum, many people expressed their concerns over the Martial Law in Mindanao, and the President’s remarks in the news that he will continue with Martial Law (ignoring Congress and the Supreme Court), and possibly even expanding it to the Visayas. Many also expressed concern when the President remarked that Martial Law under Marcos was “good” and that he intended to be “brutal” in his implementation of Martial Law. Some participants suggested that the group start an online petition to immediately stop Martial Law and the killings in Mindanao.
In closing, Atty. Manuel said that we need to know relevant information to avoid a repeat of the Marcos regime’s Martial Law, so he enjoined everyone to talk about it and share information, such as the information they received during the forum. Seeing a high interest on the forum’s topic, he said that this is just the first forum on the topic, and would probably explore other related activities under the project.
The Top Level Policy Dialogue is an activity under the “Community-based Dialogue Sessions on Human Rights Promotion and Protection” project. It is jointly implemented by the Alternative Law Groups, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (through the AFP Human Rights Office), the Philippine National Police (through the PNP Human Rights Affairs Office), the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), and is being supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation of Germany.