COMMENTARY: On the SC’s ruling on the second extension of martial law

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 06 February) — Today, February 6, by a vote of 10-5, the Supreme Court (SC) upheld the second extension of Martial Law in Mindanao and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

From 60 days, Martial Law was initially extended to 222 days (ending in December 31, 2017) and now to 588 days until December 31, 2018.

This means that 24.1 million Mindanawons in 33 cities and 442 municipalities will be under situations where “police power is exercised by the executive with the aid of the military” (VERA Files taking off from a definition provided by Constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas SJ) for the rest of the year.

Is it only a matter of time before Martial Law’s reach is felt by 102 million Filipinos?

There are those who insist that President Duterte has transformed Martial Law and that it is necessary against terrorism and for peace and order.

Nearly nine months have passed since the attacks in Marawi, the main rationale for putting Mindanao under Martial Law, and about three months since it was declared as “liberated from terrorists.”

Meanwhile, tomorrow, February 7 is the 44th year since the burning of Jolo.

Jolo was gutted nearly two years after Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972 via Proclamation 1081 to “maintain law and order throughout the Philippines, prevent or suppress all forms of lawless violence as well as any act of insurrection or rebellion and to enforce obedience to all the laws and decrees, orders and regulations” that he would promulgate.

If it were possible to compare the devastation of Jolo in 1974 and that of Marawi which was subjected to sustained airstrikes in 2017, what observations would we make?

The Jolo of today is but a poor shadow of the vibrant and cosmopolitan political and economic center that it historically was.

Police power as exercised by the executive with the aid of the military did not prevent the burning of Jolo. The municipality—the entire province of Sulu—did not recover under 9 years of Martial Law and 12 more years of Marcos, which only institutionalized the problems that continue to beleaguer the Sulu of today.

Some say the SC decision is not surprising. Maybe. But it certainly is still deserving of expressions of indignation and stronger citizens’ commitment to heighten the watch for civil liberties and against militarism.

We neither want a repeat of Jolo 1974 and Marawi 2017, nor do we want Marawi to go the way of Jolo. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Mags Z. Maglana is a Mindanawon who has worked in various capacities over the past 30 years for peace, good governance, sustainable development, and the promotion of human rights. This piece was first posted on her FB page on February 6, 2018. MindaNews was granted permission to reprint this. Please email feedback to