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Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Echaves: ‘The evil that men do...

THAT Shakespeare line about the slain Julius Caesar comes to mind as people continue to dissect and speculate the meaning and scope of “state of lawless violence.”

Charge that to the collective memory about and trauma with Martial Rule, under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

That President Duterte’s declaration about the state of lawlessness sends us quibbling and antsy is a Marcos evil that lives after him.

Long after he lifted Martial Rule in 1981 after nine years…long after his cowardly flight to and asylum in Hawaii…long after his death in 1989…long after his return here, our memories still burn about this man who
singlehandedly installed himself president for life without explicitly saying so.

Never again to Martial Rule, we say. We who went through or witnessed the excesses of the Marcoses during those nine years, the long list of desaparecidos and political prisoners, the news blackouts, human rights violations and deprivation of civil rights, bear witness to the evil that lives after Marcos.

And the 1987 Constitution ensconces this collective allergy, nay abomination by carefully detailing the requirements prior to another declaration of such state.

Okay, so such critical period should not go beyond sixty days. And yes, there must be clear proof of people’s endangerment, or rebellion.

Still, we wonder if the declaration of state of lawlessness...considering this is the first time it’s ever been used...is not just some sanitized phrase, or actually a precursor to the real thing itself.

Therefore, martial rule is to Marcos as state of lawlessness is to Duterte?

This state of paranoid thinking…charge that to Marcos.

Especially because the declaration sends our very own senators in a state of agitation, doggedly pinning down Malacañang for details.

When it’s explained as merely the power of the Philippine president to “call out” the Armed Forces of the Philippines to assist the Philippine National Police in suppressing lawlessness and violence, that gives us some relief.

It also helps that other lawyers not smitten by the Duterte machismo say that civilians should not be alarmed if military forces help the police in securing public places and checkpoints.

This would mean, for instance, stricter efforts to intercept arms and bombs, towards thwarting terrorist activities.

It helps to know that the present Constitution prevents a repeat of Marcosian ways. Any attempt to declare martial law shall be subjected to various levels of review.

The president can decide on it unilaterally. Other branches of government must have their say. Congress must affirm it, and the Supreme Court must review it, primarily on whether or not the factual basis for the
proclamation is sufficient.

If indeed declared, the president still cannot run amuck with the power. Within 48 hours after the declaration, he must submit a report in person or in writing to Congress.

Congress then can revoke the proclamation by a majority vote from each of the House and the Senate. Or it can approve an extension beyond the mandated 60 days, if requested by the president.

And there’s the rub. Political maneuverings point to a Duterte Congress.

(lelani.echaves@gmail.com)
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