ONE of the most interesting and well-researched books I have read lately is: "Marcos Martial Law, Never Again" (Raissa Robles 2016).
The "Never Again" part of the title could be wishful thinking. During the Spanish, American and Japanese periods, we were not short of dictatorial personalities. Governor General Leonard Wood (1920-26) serves as one example: "His insatiable appetite for power culminated in his run for the (USA) presidency"(J. McCullen, 2005, p.298). He didn't even need to declare martial law while governor general.
From 21 September 1972 until February 1986, martial law had quickly turned into dictatorship. Many brilliant Filipinos and fine Philippine institutions were willingly supporting it, even to the very end. Chauvinism and group think prospered; critical thinking and dissent were hard to find. And harshly punished.
The concept of "constitutional-authoritarianism" contains the ever present danger of turning into permanent dictatorship. We are not alone:
Italy has its Mussolini, Portugal its Salazar, Spain its Franco, Germany its Hitler and Austria its Dollfuss and Schuschnigg. Not to mention most South American states. Any situation that leaves everything to the charisma or personal qualities of the president runs the danger of repeating the atrocities of martial law.
To avoid repeating this historical situation, we need an informed public that has the foresight to see what is coming. Is this the road to dictatorship? Or the road to democracy? The following four questions and their answers, will hopefully, help the citizenry decide.
First: Who declares martial law?
And second: Who takes power once martial law is declared?
If the Executive declares martial law AND takes power, we are on the road to dictatorship. Again! He who declares martial law should not take power. Ever. Why would the Executive face the uncertainty and expense of an election when he can keep himself in power for the next 18 years? Constitutionalism zero; authoritarianism top score.
Third, When should martial law be declared? The easiest scenario is an external attack, e.g. Pearl Harbor (07 December 1941). Even in this situation President Roosevelt waited until the next day to ask Congress to declare war on Japan. There was only one dissenting vote.
Declaring martial law for domestic problems is a different story. It is unlikely to work. The Executive could allow his government bureaucracy to fail in order to take total power. It's self-serving. A conflict of interest situation.
Once martial law law is declared, further safeguards need to be in place. Congress should not be dissolved. Human rights must be protected. Press freedom must continue. During the last martial law we had a presidential decree on rumor-mongering while the government owned or controlled press could systematically lie, omit or distort the news and the facts. The only thing you could trust was the date.
The people need to keep their eyes on those with power. The power-holder's interest is not always in the people's interest. When Mr. Marcos became president in 1965, the poverty level was 43.3 percent. When he left in February 1986, it was 64.1 percent. He and his family and cronies were not included in the statistics on poverty.
John Carrol, S.J., a sociologist, asked this question in 1965: "Will family loyalties continue to impede the development of wider loyalties and co-operation?"
You answer.--from ‘The Village Idiot’