As the Republic’s commander-in-chief, the President, as mandated by the 1987 Constitution, may declare Martial Law “in case of rebellion, when the public safety requires it.” Moreover, he / she may suspend the writ of habeas corpus which safeguards freedom against arbitrary action by the State.
On May 23, President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law over Mindanao on the grounds of rebellion. More than a month after Mindanao was placed under Martial Law and the writ of habeas corpus was suspended, Mindanao remains a mess with a slim chance of ending its problems with terrorism.
Martial Law should be a measure of last resort following the other two emergency powers of the President: (1) call out the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and (2) suspend the writ of habeas corpus. It should be commensurate to the acts of actual invasion or rebellion and must satisfy the requirement of public necessity. Declaring Martial Law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus without actual rebellion or if not warranted for public safety, may lead to numerous human rights abuses that some of our Congressmen argue in the Supreme Court.
While it is true that Martial Law declared in Mindanao is different from that of the Martial Law declared by President Marcos in 1972, the challenge remains if the declaration satisfies the requirements stipulated in the 1987 Constitution. Lastly, vigilance is necessary to call out human rights abuses while Martial Law is in effect and the writ of habeas corpus is suspended.