Press Release
May 24, 2017


Mr. President, I rise on a point of personal and collective privilege.

Yesterday afternoon, we were all jolted by news that elements of the Maute group had taken siege of Marawi City. Several facilities were occupied by this group, including a government hospital, city hall, the city jail and a school, the Dansalan College. Buildings were being set on fire, and firetrucks were detained and held by members of the terrorist group so that no assistance could be rendered. Chilling photos on social media and in news sites showed ISIS flags being hoisted over public buildings and on the streets. This was the same terrorist group responsible for the Davao night market bombing last year.

Mr. President, there are no words for this unspeakable tragedy. Just yesterday morning, we were commiserating with the citizens of Manchester, England, whose young people became victims of a terrorist attack at a concert. Only a few hours later, our own countrymen and women from Marawi were flooding social media with desperate entreaties for help. Sabi nga ni Marawi City Mayor Majul Usman Gandamra, 'we are not okay.' I can only condemn in the strongest possible words this brazen act of terror and inhumanity that is an assault on our country, our people, and the peace-loving values of Muslim peoples all over the world.

Terrorism, however, should be responded to not with bloodlust and unfettered state violence. Actions of the state must be measured, even as they should be prompt and decisive. I do not want to preempt the report of the President before the Congress, but I would like to express my concern over the words of President Duterte this morning, saying, and I quote, "Martial law is martial, it will not be different from what President Marcos did. I will be harsh."

It concerns me that the President appears to not be aware that any martial law declaration done in the post-Marcosian era will, by necessity, be different from the Proclamation No. 1081. Then, Marcos did not need Congress's approval. There was no possibility of overriding the proclamation. Now, the proclamation needs affirmation by Congress, that can revoke it. Then, the military took over the civilian courts and Congress was eventually abolished. Now, the judicial and legislative branches need to remain functioning and will be headed by civilians. Then, when the writ of habeas corpus was suspended, the suspension could apply to anyone now. If the President suspends the writ now, it can and should only apply to those charged with rebellion or offenses connected with the invasion. Furthermore, that person arrested or detained should be judicially charged within three days. These changes have been installed in place precisely because of our nation's experiences in executive excesses and overreach.

Kaya po, isa ko pong tanong sa Pangulo: ano po ang ibig sabihin ninyo na ang inyong Martial Law ay igagaya niyo sa Martial Law ng diktador? When you say you will be harsh, do you mean that you will be as harsh as the dictator that threw journalists and critics into prison? As harsh as the dictator that authorized waterboarding, Russian roulette, rape as a form of torture? As harsh as the dictator who co-opted the judicial and legislative branches and arrogated unto himself all the powers of the state? As harsh as the dictator that ordered the Malisbong massacre and the burning of Jolo to the ground, leaving searing memories of Martial law on generations of Muslim Filipinos?

Terrorism must be met with decisiveness, but I fear the implementation of Martial law in the hands of a government that has demonstrated a poor track record in the area of human rights, and in the hands of a President that has time and again, expressed disdain towards the rule of law. If the people's human rights are wantonly violated under peacetime, what more under martial law? Kung ang ating uniformed personnel ay hinahayaang maging abusado at marahas sa panahon na walang Martial Law, paano pa sa ilalim ng Batas Militar? What has become of the declaration of the state of lawlessness imposed by the President in the aftermath of the Davao night market bombing, and has this been assessed in terms of what it has accomplished and where it remains deficient? Why do we keep resurrecting relics from our painful history, instead of coming up with new solutions and modern strategies that are in accordance with the rule of law and our international commitments?

These are questions I, as legislator and therefore constitutionally mandated to check on Executive excesses, need to ask at this difficult moment confronting our nations. These are questions that I call on you, my fellow legislators, to keep asking as we navigate our way through these murky waters and as we listen to the President deliver his report to Congress tomorrow. I call on this chamber, Mr. President, to express the sense of the Senate as early as now to remain steadfast in our commitment to human rights, to protect the lessons that we have learned from Marcos's Martial Law, and to ensure that that dark period of history will never happen again.

Make no doubt about it: terrorism is a monster to be suppressed. But in suppressing this monster, let us not rouse another monster. One that carries with it the legacy of so much blood and pain.

Maraming salamat po.

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