HON. LORENZO R. TAÑADA III Joint Session of the Congress of the Philippines For the Purpose of Reviewing PP 1959 14 December 2009

HON. LORENZO R. TAÑADA III
Joint Session of the Congress of the Philippines
For the Purpose of Reviewing PP 1959
14 December 2009

MANIFESTATION

Distinguished colleagues, notwithstanding the lifting of the declaration of Martial Law in the province of Maguindanao, I wish to manifest my utter disgust with PP 1959, for the reason that I believe it to have been a surreptitious curtailment of our civil rights and the most profligate testament yet to our government’s propensity for war-mongering.

The president’s report had done its best to paint a grim picture, yet not even the utterly inappropriate inclusion of photos of the Maguindanao Massacre could hide the fact that no rebellion ever took place, or that the monstrosity was largely a by-product of the mismanagement by both the Executive and the Armed Forces of their respective agents. Instead, what became abundantly clear from the interpellations was that the declaration of Martial Law was an injudicious application of a quick fix. The Massacre had demonstrated how the Executive had created a monstrosity in the clan of the Ampatuans, and how the military had functioned as the catalyst by allowing the CAFGUs and CVOs to act as a private army of hoodlums and louts. Like Scylla in Greek mythology, this aberration had grown many heads—as they are wont to do in a culture of impunity—and the declaration of Martial Law was obviously an attempt to cut off all its heads at once and hide the carcass.

Unfortunately, the divisive ills that beleaguer Maguindanao are not susceptible to being cured by just super glue. Neither is it sound policy to do such a thing. Those in government who want quick fixes would do better to find employment with the company that makes Mighty Bond, because they will not find satisfaction here. I, for one, would like to think that in this country, when the excrement hits the fan, we do not escape from the embassy roof; we stay, clean up the mess, and determine the source of the problem.

I am aware that there are some quarters in Maguindanao that favor the imposition of Martial Law, but this, to me, is more an indication of the urgency with which their situation must be addressed, rather than a testament to the appropriateness of the measure. History stands witness to how Martial Law slides so easily into the realm of abuse, and it is precisely for this reason that the Constitution expressly and explicitly, mincing no words, provides such stringent safeguards for its imposition. Given its volatile nature and the dangers inherent in toeing the fine line between restoring order and imposing the same by force, Martial Law is reserved only for those extreme instances when the government is facing such a formidable challenge to its authority that it must resort to force in order to protect itself. This is a power meant to be exercised only in the direst of circumstances, and in every case, with the utmost caution. If we consent to use it as a remedy for every emergency, we might as well put any pretense of policy-making aside and walk out of these halls right now. Martial Law was never meant to solve every crisis—that’s what policy is for, that is what legislation is for, that is what the rule of law is for.

It is the duty of government to come up with rational measures. We cannot resort to extremes every time something goes wrong; for not only does that speak of a debilitating weakness on the part of government, but an overzealous paranoia as well.

It is evident, then, that what the situation really called for was assisting the civil authorities in the restoration of order, and not the giving over of the whole area to the military. When the local government flounders because its officials are suspected of criminal activity, the remedy is to apprehend and prosecute the individual offenders, remove them from office, and replace them with lawful authority, not to subject the innocent public to military rule because their leaders are given to lawlessness.

As a last point, the manner in which Martial Law was declared and then subsequently withdrawn—in the dead of night, and without a word from our Chief Executive—points to the dubious intentions behind the measure. Its imposition on a Friday night, and its withdrawal on a Saturday night, was clearly designed to skirt accountability. If nothing else, all that sly stealth should make us ever more wary, ever vigilant on our guard, lest we wake up one morning to find ourselves once again under fascist rule.

Thank you.

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