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UNLESS ‘CLOTHED WITH ABUSE’

Panelo: Martial law a tool to save democracy

By: Julie M. Aurelio - @inquirerdotnet - Philippine Daily Inquirer | September 23,2019 - 09:44 AM

MANILA, Philippines — The declaration of martial law is not necessarily antidemocratic, but “the very tool to save the exercise of democracy,” President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesperson said in a statement on the eve of the actual enforcement of Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law 47 years ago.

“Those who perceive that a declaration of martial law is antidemocratic is oblivious of the fact that its application is precisely the very tool to save the exercise of democracy,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said on Sunday.

“It is only when it is clothed with abuse by its enforcers that it becomes obnoxious,” added Panelo, a former lawyer of the Marcos family in its ill-gotten wealth cases.

Expansion of rebellion

The President himself has made no secret of his admiration for the late dictator.

Just like his idol, he also used the power of martial rule but so far only in Mindanao, after the siege of Marawi City in May 2017 by the Islamic State-inspired Maute terrorist group.

Mindanao remains under military rule as it has been extended three times by Congress until Dec. 31, 2019.

In his statement on Sunday, Panelo described martial law under the Marcoses as “one of the most gripping moments in the nation’s history,” and credited it for instilling discipline among Filipinos then.

“The imposition of martial law and the abuses it spawned even as it instilled discipline among the citizenry at its inception, as well as reaping success in dismantling the then spreading communist insurgency in the country, created a deep wound to an entire generation,” he said.

On the other hand, journalists who have published books on the Marcos dictatorship cite the communist movement’s expansion by the end of Marcos’ rule to a fighting force of almost 30,000. The insurgency has yet to be dismantled under Mr. Duterte.

Marcos’ martial law regime is remembered by its survivors as a time of state terrorism and of torture and murder of civilian protesters by the military and police.

Traumatic experience

In a speech in the United States in 1981, two years before his homecoming by assassination on Marcos’ watch, Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. said of Marcos’ martial law that “by saving democracy, he killed it.”

Panelo said in his statement that “regardless of political persuasion, the Marcos martial law continues to haunt those who have traumatic experiences during the one-man rule.”

He pointed out that “despite the fears and the trauma it created following its declaration, the framers of the 1987 Constitution acknowledged the necessity of its use to save the Republic from ruin against the enemies of the state.”

Panelo stressed that the framers had deemed it “wise to vest it once more with the President albeit diminishing its discretionary use by adding more safeguards for its abuse.”

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