AMID the furor over President Duterte’s talk last weekend that if he’d declare martial law it would be “to preserve the nation and protect the people” and “not about nvasion or rebellion,” Solicitor General Jose Calida spoke out and many of us listened.

The solicitor general is the principal law officer and legal defender of the Republic. He represents the government and the people of the Philippines in litigations affecting their interest.

Not unexpectedly, his briefing didn’t pin down the situations that martial law may be declared under the 1987 Constitution: “invasion or rebellion, when public safety requires it.”

Extreme cases

Instead, Calida talked about “extreme cases,” “clear and present danger,” and “breakdown of law and order.”

Asked for specifics, he cited, among others, a bomb attack on Malacañang, bomb in the mails, assassins targeting the president, criminality that can’t be controlled. All of which haven’t happened but, Calida said, you can’t predict.

But wouldn’t they fall under state of “lawless violence,” for which the president as commander-in-chief of all the armed forces can call out troops to prevent or suppress? In fact, Duterte’s declaration of a state of lawlessness still has to be lifted.

Aquino example

Calida though suggested that Duterte can declare martial law as the president sees fit. Even if it would not meet requirements of the Constitution and the Supreme Court rules so? Cory Aquino did it, Calida said.

Cory’s was a revolutionary government that ended the Marcos martial law. It served as transition back to democracy. We have had a democratic government for 29 years now and we’d tear it down and return to the ruins of autocratic rule?


Calida’s Jan. 19 talk with the press indicates the route our leaders would, or could, take. The president could declare martial law but if struck down by Congress and/or the Supreme Court, he’d use the armed forces to padlock the other branches that wouldn’t go along.

Or he could just set up a revolutionary government outright. Duterte said, as controversy grew over the issue and senators told him to shut up, that next time he’d no longer be noisy about his plans.

But would stealth silence the nation?