ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/27 July) — President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to declare martial law in Mindanao with the avowed goal to contain terrorism in the island is arbitrary, a former lawmaker on Thursday said.
Duterte relied mainly on the military, a tack that the Supreme Court followed when it decided on petitions questioning the legality of the martial law declaration, Satur Ocampo, a former Bayan Muna representative, said.
Ocampo, speaking in a forum here on the Marawi crisis, said the first objective of martial law is to dismantle the New People’s Army, and the Maute Group is just being used as cover.
On May 31, a week after the Marawi siege started, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a statement that martial law is “imperative” even if government troops can contain the Maute group without using the iron-fist.
“The situation currently being dealt with by State security forces goes beyond Marawi City. President Duterte’s imposition of Martial Law aims to put an end to the long running rebellion in various provinces in the south, as evidenced by the incidents that happened in Zamboanga, Davao, Bohol, Lanao, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi and Maguindanao,” Lorenzana said.
Ocampo said that under the 1987 Constitution the President is obliged to report to Congress 48 hours after issuing a martial law declaration so the lawmakers may deliberate on whether to approve it or not.
He pointed out that the 1987 Constitution is a response to the abuses committed during the martial law imposed by the Marcos dictatorship.
“But Congress fell silent…The Supreme Court doesn’t want to confront Congress because it fears a constitutional crisis might arise.
“The safeguards have been ignored by our officials, so where do we go? We have to exact accountability from government,” he said.
“President Duterte only believes in the military version [of the situation in Marawi City], which is self-serving,” he added.
He said that like in the administration’s war on drugs the military’s approach in Marawi is an “overkill”.
He asked media to get the side of the people of Marawi and not just rely on the viewpoint of the military.
In the same forum, representatives of evacuees from Marawi appealed to the president to lift martial law in Mindanao, saying it has worsened their situation.
President Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23, the same day that the Maute Group attacked Marawi.
The Supreme Court upheld the imposition of martial law as legal.
After the martial law proclamation lapsed on July 22, Congress approved Duterte’s request to extend it until December 31 this year. (H. Marcos C. Mordeno/MindaNews)