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Friday, December 11, 2009

Illegal

I do have my misgivings about the Martial Law declared over at Maguindanao. I am quite aware that the extreme lawlessness in that province can probably be best addressed by Martial Law since civilian rule has already been compromised by feudal landlords who believe the province is theirs by birthright.

Unfortunately, the Constitution clearly does not support the imposition of Martial Law in Maguindanao, even if the President's allies will stand by her side and support the declaration. Martial Law can only be imposed only on very specific grounds- when there is an existing rebellion or invasion- and it cannot be invoked as a preemptive course of action against a rebellion "in the offing." Nor does the discovery of a huge arsenal of guns and ammunition in properties owned by the Ampatuans constitute an existing uprising. The framers of the 1987 Constitution were quite particular about this, so as to avoid abuse of discretion.

We can always argue that the Maguindanao Martial Law has proven to be quite effective in crippling the Ampatuan's infrastructure of violence since this has emboldened witnesses to come forward and testify against the perpetrators, and the suspension of the habeas corpus allowed for the warrantless arrests of the Ampatuans before they could act on destroying or hiding evidence linked to the massacre of 57 civilians and journalists.

But then again, the Constitution does not allow it. Martial Law cannot be justified on the grounds of public safety. In a rebellion, the objective must be to overthrow the government. The Ampatuans were and are not rebelling. Why should they, when they were the government?

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