Is martial law the only solution to end lawless violence?

Atty. Katrina Clemente-Lua, Executive Director of the Stratbase ADR Institute

It has been nine days since President Rodrigo Duterte placed Mindanao in a state of martial law and yet the Senate and the House of Representatives have not held a joint session to deliberate on the proclamation. On May 31, Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra in an executive session presented the president’s report on Martial Law before the House of Representatives.

The military has recently announced that it has already gained back 90 percent control of Marawi City. Yet, it has been reported that Guevarra has also stated that the continued implementation of martial law is necessary to ensure public safety.

While debates on the legality of the declaration have ensued among scholars, netizens and several politicians, the House of Representatives, which fortunately has a supermajority allied to the president, except for a few, seems to share one voice on the issue. While the Committee of the Whole is still expected to deliberate the president’s report and determine the facts upon which the proclamation of martial law is premised, the House leaders have already expressed their unwillingness to convene in a joint session to discuss the declaration of martial law. The House leaders’ lack of willingness to convene suggest that they will not agree to revoke the declaration of martial law.

As the military has gained control over most of the city, a new question arises as to whether this victory validates the declaration of martial law. Without any ruling issued by the Congress or the Supreme Court, the question on whether there is sufficient basis for the declaration of martial law still lingers. What should be the parameters before martial law can be declared? Would the president issue a similar proclamation should there be another lawless violence? Similarly, is martial law, which should be the last resort, the only effective solution to end every lawless violence?

While we cannot question the authority of the president to place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law in case of rebellion or invasion; and although there are no reports of human rights violations, we must not be complacent and must be inquisitive on the legality of the declaration of martial law.

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