Thursday July 19, 2018

Seares: Martial law ‘as exclamation point’

SOLICITOR General Jose Calida had argued that the uprising in Marawi City can be quelled by sending out troops and martial law confers no legal rights.

Not surprising that it was used by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen in his lone dissent to the Supreme Court decision rejecting the petitions against President Duterte’s martial law in Mindanao.

But Leonen alone embraced that thought. Majority of the justices did not think that martial law was not necessary or if it was, it should have been limited to Marawi, not the entire Mindanao. They believed there was factual basis for it and, except for three other justices, the president had the power to decide its breadth.

Candid Calida

Calida was candid, exceedingly so, when he said in the June 13-15 oral arguments that the president could’ve restored peace by just tapping the armed forces. And martial law wouldnt revise the powers because what was illegal before martial law would still be illegal under martial law, negating the presidential license for each soldier’s rape of three women max. (He was kidding but, coming from the president, the joke about abuses was unnerving.)

Leonen found irresistible Calida’s metaphor that martial law adds no “legal powers except that it has an exclamation point (and was) meant to make terrorists listen.” The lone dissenter said, “We should temper our fears with reason. Otherwise, we succumb to the effects of the weapons of terror. We should dissent-- even resist-- when offered the farce that martial law is necessary because it is only an exclamation point.”

When (!) doesn’t scare

The exclamation point was a big deal to composer Wagner: he said he wrote “with an exclamation point!” But our English teacher back in high school said the exclamation point to be effective must be used moderately. F. Scott Fitzgerald asked would-be writers to cut out exclamation marks: “it’s like laughing at your own joke.” Other no-nos about the exclamation point: Don’t pair it with a question mark (!?). It’s like being excited and questioning the excitement at the same time. And five exclamation points (!!!!!) “suggest insanity.”

No, not all sentences that carry an exclamation point are scary. They may just tell you the user is agitated but not fearsome.

What Mautes think

Applied to Calida’s metaphor, martial law has yet to frighten the Mautes to surrender or flee.

It would be interesting to find out what the terrorists-- not rebels, Leonen says in his dissent-- think of martial law. With bullets flying though, they wouldn’t think martial law could be any worse. Or, if illegal drugs are fueling their courage, they couldn’t care less.

Why bother to find out? Because martial law-- the exclamation point-- was mainly directed at them.