Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004


@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

According to the 1987 Constitution, Congress is supposed to convene a joint session in order to review the government’s martial law proclamation. But leaders of both houses of Congress said a joint session is unnecessary since the majority are supporting the president’s decision anyway.

This is unfortunate, since there are questions related to martial law that only defense and military officials can answer in a Congress session. And even if these concerns may not be addressed by the Duterte government, they are worth laying out in greater detail because they will likely be explored or exploited by various parties in the Philippines in the coming weeks.

Few would disagree that these are complicated questions with complex answers. But it is exactly because of this reality that the Duterte government must resist sweeping these under the rug and confront them head on. The situation in Marawi is Duterte’s most serious test since he took power last June, and it could have major implications not just for the Philippines’ domestic politics, but also its foreign policy. Questions cannot just be left lingering.

Excerpt of contributed article for The Diplomat magazine

Did Duterte normalize martial law in the Philippines?

In less than a year, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has declared martial law in the southern part of the country and convinced the Supreme Court to affirm it. He was able to do this without generating widespread opposition while buttressing his hold to power and undermining the alleged destabilization plots against his administration. Martial law’s extension for several more months is also supported by Congress leaders.

The normalization of martial law as a legitimate tool of a sitting president to enforce law and order appears to be a political victory for Duterte, although this has remained unacknowledged.

Duterte got what he wants but not all. He got the backing of several important institutions in the government but not the silence of groups which have consistently fought against the return of martial law. He gave too much confidence to the ‘reformed’ military and ignored the reminder of human rights groups about the bloody record of some of his trusted generals. An extended and expanded martial law is prone to all sorts of abuse especially if the implementers are accused of causing the displacement of indigenous peoples in Mindanao, the violent dispersal of peaceful protests, the kidnapping of activists, and the sabotage of the peace process.

Perhaps the Duterte government is emboldened by his record-high public trust rating and the relatively smaller protests against his decision to declare martial law. This is the time for Duterte to remember what happened to his idol Marcos in the past. Wasn’t Marcos also popular during the early years of martial law, and wasn’t it also true that it took some years before a vibrant protest movement defied the dictatorship?

Excerpt of contributed article for The Diplomat magazine

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