Is Martial Law the Answer?

“People sometimes make wrong decisions to do the right thing,” So Yool, Chief Kim Korean drama. 

With the recent terrorism attack in Marawi City, President Rodrigo Duterte declared Martial Law in Mindanao on May 24, 2017.

But, what is martial law?

Martial law is the imposition of direct military control of normally civilian functions of the government, especially in response to a temporary emergency such as invasion or a major disaster, or in occupied territory.  (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martial_law).

When the president declared martial law on Mindanao, the reactions of the people vary from sarcasm to approval, from apprehension to relief, from loud protestations to noncommittal shrugs, from indignation to trust.  (http://www.rappler.com/technology/social-media/170749-martial-law-mindanao-netizens-reactions)

Many were reminded of the sad and harsh events of the Martial Law declared by former President Ferdinand E. Marcos on September 21, 1972 by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 1081.  Military rule reigned in Philippines then for more than eight years until it was officially ended on January 17, 1981 by virtue of Presidential Decree no 2045.  Marcos, however, reserved decree-making powers for himself. (http://www.gov.ph/featured/declaration-of-martial-law/).

I was born on May 1, 1974, when martial law was still fully imposed and practically lived my pre-school age in the duration of the entire martial law era.  Despite my young age then, I could not remember my mother and my great grandmother ever complaining there is any difficulty in buying basic necessities for us to live in comfort and peace.  Back then, we lived in Barangay Sum-ag, Bacolod City, a barangay where the Visayan Maritime Academy (now known as VMA Global College) was established, and my mom was looking after a boarding house catering for students studying at the said academy.

I did remember talks about curfew but I believed it just helped make my mother’s  life easier in managing several young lads in their teenage years with their raging hormones and penchant for adventure and fun.  They are not allowed to be out of the house after 10 o’clock in the evening and their fear of violating that law kept them in check.

Since, I was still young to remember that much, I asked my mother what was it like during the martial law era.  

She recalled that except for a problem with shortage of rice for a short time, life in the province went on as smoothly and as normally as it was before martial law was declared.  There were talks, she said, of some people who were imprisoned for talking against the government and there were talks of summary killings but none that she had witnessed or known personally.  It seemed to me that life in the province had gone on as much as it was before the declaration.  

News and confessions of life of brutality during martial law, seemed to had affected the people in Manila, where the center of government had always been, more than it affected the lives of the people in the provinces.

Once again, martial law is declared in the Philippines, but only in Mindanao.

President Rodrigo Duterte has declared martial law in Mindanao following clashes between government forces and a group inspired by the so-called Islamic State in Marawi City. (http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/05/30/1703141/live-updates-martial-law-mindanao)

There were many vehement complaints and loud disapproval of this action by the President.  The question is: If you were on the President’s shoes at that time, what would you have done in response to such events in Mindanao?

If we are among the residents of Marawi would we be relieved to know that our country represented by the President is doing its utmost best to preserve the lives of affected by making its military rule in the face of such blatant threat towards the government rule, or would we feel more threatened because of the power juggle and apparent war going on?  Despite the hardships and difficulties they must be facing now, wouldn’t the Marawi residents feel more assured of their safety knowing the government is showing its effort to control the situation and that the government is displaying so much more backbone and political will over their dire situation?

Yes, there is that worry that so much power can be alluring and addictive.  But, times now are different.  People are more aware of their right as a people.  We now have a stronger Constitution that protects us from tyrannical rule.  President Duterte himself is aware of that.

President Rodrigo Duterte claims he’ll be the first to call for an end to martial law once Mindanao is “stable.” (http://www.rappler.com/nation/171654-duterte-end-martial-law)

Then let me go back to my featured quote at the beginning of this post.

“People sometimes make wrong decisions to do the right thing,” So Yool, Chief Kim Korean drama. 

To some people the declaration of martial law might have been a wrong decision to make despite its intention to do the right thing, but, sometimes certain situation calls for drastic measures. 

Let us call them to task when the need for such measure has extended its purpose.  That’s the time then for us to make our moves. For now, let the government prove its worth and its supremacy over terrorism.

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