Martial Rule and the Law

According to the 1987 Constitution, the President can declare Martial Law, but (a) several things remain in effect, like the Consti, the civil courts, nor is the writ of habeas corpus necessarily revoked, and (b) it needs Congressional approval to extend it beyond one month.

When I was born, Martial Law was only just about five years old, so my first-hand recollections of the event are rather nebulous, to say the least. Like most of my generation, all we know of the… horror when Proclamation 1081 was announced is through history books, teachers and professors, tales from our elders in CivSoc, and the occassional docu. Heck, we all thought Erap was going to do something to that effect – I mean, with Lacson and all – but it seemed the guy, in fairness to him, was a lot nicer than we gave him credit for. In fact, as one pundit described him, Erap was, despite everything, in awe of the law.

But from what has been handed down to us, a grim picture emerges. If the docu they showed us at the Ninoy Aquino Center is true, and so goes with history taught to us, Marcos actually acted even before 1081 was proclaimed. That while Tatad was reading 1081 the opposition and activists were being arrested. And there was also a ConCon going on at that time whose provisions would have severly limited Marcos’ powers, and that of his cronies.

A lot has been said about the 1987 Consti as a reaction to Martial Law; in fact, many of its provisions that either enshrine civil liberties or prevent the concentration of power on any branch of government, is a clear indication of where the framers of the ’87 were coming from.

Before Gloriagate was even on the radar, there were already talks about the charter being changed, especially during the (first) Philippine Political Parties Conference in 2002. As I’ve recounted before, I had this memorable conversation with Dr. Jose Abueva over Federalism. I wasn’t sold on the idea, being a student of history myself, and nothing I’ve heard from the presentors – including Dr. Abueva – allayed my fears that the inherent extreme parochialism among some Filipinos, alongside political greed, could lead to the dismemberment of a Federal Republic of the Philippines.

So I asked Dr. Abueva: sir, what would prevent ethnic tensions (or something like that) from escalating to the point that States within a Philippine Federal Republic would secede, ala-Confederacy or Yugoslavia?

Dr. Abueva looked at me as if I was such a slow-witted student and said: that’s impossible; it will be illegal.

I just sat there and said, “ah, ok.” I wanted to pursue the matter, because I knew for a fact that there are some people – and some can be found here in the Philippines – will care less for the law, much less one drafted by academics in Imperial Manila, if it suited their purposes – whether personal or parochial – to leave the Philippines. I wanted to tell Dr. Abueva, “that’s well and good, sir, but isn’t there more? Because I’ll be one of the persons who’ll have to lead the charge to restore such ‘rebellious’ States to the Federation, and I’d like to know if, pretty soon, I’ll have to risk my life because of you and your federalista cohorts who seem to be dominating the discussion on ChaCha.”

The same line of thinking struck me as the idea of Martial Rule being reinstated by La Gloria went through one avenue of my Mind. Sure, ’87 says she can’t just declare Martial Law because Congress can nullify it anytime and impeach her for sure. Sure, the ’87 has so many legal impediments to Martial Law…

… but the law could never really stop people who are determined not to follow it.

Nor could the law, as shown during the opening hours of Martial Rule, stop a person or the forces at the command of that person, if said entity cares nothing about the law.

Let’s assume certain members of the military remain loyal to their Commander-in-Chief. Part of the thinking here is over the fact that (a) many senior officers remain loyal to Gloria, and (b) the military culture of not questioning orders. Of course, many soldiers have shown that this isn’t entirely the rule in the AFP, but it still has to be disproven if men like the Oakwood Mutineers (bad example, but i hope you get the point) are the exception rather then the rule, troops who do question certain of the decisions and commands of the higher-ups.

What’s to stop Gloria from using the immense powers of her position to tear down Congress, make the Supreme Court dance to her tune at gunpoint (“dance, judges, *bang* *bang*!”), and to haul off ala-1972 all of her opponents?

One of the things I try to teach my proteges is the necessity of taking things into context. And one of the comparisons I use to illustrate my point is that of EDSA I and Tiannemen Square. Ver wanted to bomb EDSA, but Marcos said no. Believe me when I tell you that no amount of heroism will prevent civilians from runninig away when really big explosions surround them and body parts and blood are flying around. Persons not trained for war or for killing follow the most basic of preservation instincts to run from a threat, and people would have run if Marcos had agreed with Ver and unleashed the power of the military on EDSA. Then maybe things would be different.

Maybe it would’ve been like Tiannemen. Why did the tanks roll over the students and troops gunned them in the hundreds? Because of differences. Because the people who won the power struggle within the Communist Party of China decided there was nothing wrong in killing the dissidents if it would preserve their power. A gamble, sure, because if the Chinese people had been outraged over what happened to their young who were spearheading the call for democracy, no military might or political creed would have prevented the collapse of the Chinese Communists. But nothing of the sort happened.

There was also this alternate story about a world where Britain lost to Germany in the Second World War, and instead of the liberal, democratic British being rulers of India, it was the Nazis that Ghandi faced. In the end, as the author resolved the story, Ghandi was bodily brought to the firing squad for even thinking of going against the Nazis, even if the protest was peaceful. Because the British were different from the Nazis. In fact, it is even said that what made Ghandi so successful in his resistance to British rule was the culture of the British themselves.

How does La Gloria think? How do her advisers think?

Perhaps, as Civil society and the other members of the opposition go about their campaign to take the little girl down, they should be asking those questions. One cannot simply bat against the wind, thinking one’s righteousness will make all the difference. This isn’t about morals and values anymore, or what’s right or wrong because we who have been engaged in this since 2000 are now in the midst of a war.

And in war, some people play only by one rule: to win it all. And nothing, nothing, will stop people like that from doing anything to come out on top. Nothing will stop them. Not morals, not ethics, not “fair play,” not deceny. And most certainly not some piece of paper with a lot of legal gobbledygook in it.

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