President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncement that he will defy the Supreme Court if the high tribunal does not toe his line in relation to his declaration of martial law last week is the clearest indication that he will perpetuate himself in power, even if he is fully aware that he does not have too many good years left.
Very likely, he plans to follow in the footsteps of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, but at a different pace. Where the former strongman first set the stage for the imposition of martial law by first suspending the writ of habeas corpus, Mr. Duterte didn’t even bother to prepare the people for the worst.
What he did was to declare martial law in all of Mindanao, but immediately followed this up with a statement that he was prepared to place the entire country under his one-man rule on the vague condition that he will take the draconian measure if terrorists enter the Visayas and Luzon.
Under the current regime where fake news proliferates, it will come as no surprise if fake terrorists are spotted in Metro Manila, who will then commit some unspeakable act of terrorism and voila! The regime has a perfect excuse to declare martial law nationwide.
This was done before by Marcos, who had then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile fake an assassination attempt just before Presidential Decree 1081 placing the Philippines under martial rule was signed. Enrile himself admitted that the supposed assassination attempt on his person was faked.
The way Mr. Duterte has been acting, it will not be impossible or even improbable for his regime to dictate to Congress to legitimize his version of 1081, and to switch from legitimately elected Philippine president to illegitimate dictator for life.
He can then do one of two things: prepare his anointed successor during this period, which can either be his daughter Sarah, or worst, defeated vice presidential bet Bongbong Marcos.
Being a lawyer but nowhere near possessing the admitted brilliant legal mind of the older Marcos, Mr. Duterte will have to have his subordinates legally justify the soon-to-be permanent state of martial law in the country. Unfortunately, the lawyers in his Cabinet are a most unimpressive bunch.
And with an independent-minded Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in the person of Lourdes Sereno, the Duterte legal cabal are overmatched. It is for this reason that the president said he would defy the SC if it rules against his martial law, or any of the acts committed by the administration related thereto.
For Marcos, his justification was to “save the republic and reform society,” which was later the basis for his ridiculous New Society.
Mr. Duterte is more blunt. He says he will declare marital law nationwide “to save the people,” whatever that means. The only people who need saving are the unfortunate poor suspected of using drugs who continue to be killed extrajudicially on a daily basis.
As expected, Mr.Duterte’s apologists tried to tone down his “I will defy the Supreme Court” stance by saying he did not exactly mean what he said.
Just like his telling the Armed Forces that he would “allow” soldiers to rape up to three, but never four or more women while doing their duty. At least this is better than Ferdinand Marcos’s martial law, when soldiers and even policemen could do as they wish. Literally tens of thousands of Filipinos were raped and/or killed.
By perpetuating himself in power, Mr. Duterte is setting the stage not only for a repeat of the rampant abuses during the Marcos martial law period, he all but guarantees that the situation will be much, much worse. The country’s economy which was left in good shape by former President Noynoy Aquino will be the first victim. Foreign investments will disappear, while those who are part of the Duterte regime will commit brazen acts of plunder from the highest to the lowest levels.
In 1986, the Philippines found a savior in a small group of reform-minded officers of the Armed Forces who inspired millions of Filipinos to force the Marcoses and their cronies out of the country. Perhaps it is within the same Armed Forces of the Philippines that another group of young officers will recognize the evil that is martial law and take whatever measure is necessary to end it and restore the country’s democratic institutions.
It must begin with the head of state unconditionally accepting that the chief justice of the Supreme Court is his co-equal, and not his subordinate.
Last modified onSunday, 23 July 2017 01:19