Threat of nationwide martial law still alive, Sison warns

The threat of a nationwide martial law remains with President Rodrigo Duterte’s constitutional reform advisers seeking ways to make it easier for its declaration, National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said.

Reacting to a news report that a series of attacks by the New People’s Army (NPA) may be grounds for the declaration of martial law under the government’s proposed federal charter, Sison said it is an indication that the threat continues to exist while Duterte is the president.

“Within the so-called Constitutional Commission, there is the drive of certain pro-Duterte elements headed by a retired general to draw up a draft federal charter that makes easier the declaration of martial law by citing ‘lawless violence’ or ‘a series of offensives by the NPA’ as the basis for the declaration of martial law,” Sison said in a statement.

Sison was referring to Ret. Lt. Gen. Ferdinand Bacobo, a charter change Consultative Committee member quoted in a Philippine Daily Inquirer report Wednesday that “lawless violence,” including NPA attacks that cause “widespread and extraordinary fear,” may be grounds for the President to declare martial law.

Saying such a move may not augur well for the resumption and success of the government’s peace negotiations with the NDFP, Sison said that instead of trying to scapegoat the NPA and make it the pretext for martial law declaration, state terrorism and fascist dictatorship, the Duterte regime should let its peace negotiations with the NDFP succeed in addressing the roots of the armed conflict and laying the ground for a just and lasting peace through comprehensive agreements on social, economic and political reforms.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) also said the proposal is dangerous, saying martial law should be considered as a drastic tool of last resort.

“In the first place, what is problematic is the absence of an objective standard for the conceptual meaning of what really constitutes terrorism or terrorist acts,” NUPL president Atty. Edre Olalia said.

“[L]awless violence can be addressed by the other powers like calling out the armed forces without suspending or compromising civilian rule, curtailing the exercise of basic rights, and denying legal remedies,” Olalia said.

Duterte’s Martial Law in Mindanao became a year old Wednesday, eight months after declaring it has driven the ISIS-inspired Maute group away from Marawi City. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

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