KitoOnlus Blog

23/05/2017: martial law imposition in the Philippines

Usually, martial law in a country is declared by the Head of State who decides to put some areas or the entire nation under direct control of the National Armed Forces. Traditionally, the imposition of such law encompasses, among other things, curfew and the suspension of the National Civil Code, all the civil rights and human rights in general. The most widespread violation is related to the principle of “habeas corpus” that, establishing the illegality of arbitrary detention from a State, is absolutely ignored considered the only existence of military tribunals and martial courts.

On May 23rd, the President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has imposed martial law in Mindanao because of the violence escalation in Marawi City, a zone under Group Maute’s control. This Group was founded by Abdullah and Omar Maute in 2013, it is a jihadist movement and it declared its affiliation to ISIS in 2016. Duterte’s declaration came from Moscow, where he has added that, even though martial law was valid only in Mindanao area, it could be extended to the whole country for “national security” reasons.

Who really is Duterte? “The Punisher” is the nickname the Time Magazine has attributed him due to the “zero tolerance” policy against organised crimes and the so called “war on the Lords of Drug” . According to an Amnesty International Report published on February 2017, it has caused the death of more than 7.000 men, women and children and in the conclusion is underlined that “police very often acts without evidences and the poorest and people living in rural areas are those who suffer most”. Since August 2016- and it has been repeated in many occasions in 2017- the United Nations and the Human Rights Council have publicly condemned the exponential number of extrajudicial killings, accusing Duterte of committing “crimes against humanity”. The President replied to such allegations with a threat to withdraw from the United Nations.

The long martial law tradition in the history of the Philippines makes the situation even harder. Historically, the first occasion has been during Spanish colonisation but, later in the centuries, many “autochthonous” presidents appreciated such practice which, indeed, has been used any time the opposition has taken stronger position than in the past. The most feared government by Filipino people is Ferdinand Marcos’s dictatorship (1965-1986) to whom Duterte has declared to get inspiration in order to establish the order in society again.

Accordingly, Duterte more than an exception is an unhappy praxis of the very much complex Filipino reality. However, unfortunately, nowadays the Philippines are not the only authoritarian country, you can think about Erdoğan’s Turkey, Maduro’s Venezuela and Trump’s United States. Considering the international panorama, it is undeniable that recently the main national governments’ interest has been extending their own political and economic powers more than respecting human rights and making them the leading principle of their policies.