Martial Law and the Constitution are Under Pressure in the Philippines

For the first time since 1987, a portion of the Philippines has been placed under martial law by President Rodrigo Duterte. He justified his May actions based on the premise that Islamic terrorists are threatening to overrun southern regions of Mindanao.

As the Filipino military battles to free the region of Marawi City from the grasp of the Maute terrorists group, martial law opponents are calling on the Supreme Court to rule against Duterte’s controlling of the area with an iron fist. To date, hundreds of militants, soldiers and civilians have been killed in the struggle against a Islamic caliphate.

As of now, it appears President Duterte is not interested in the Supreme Court’s soon to be released decision. In a speech delivered to local officials and the press, Duterte said, “It’s not dependent on the whim of the Supreme Court. Should I believe them? When I see the situation is still chaotic and you ask me to lift it? I will arrest you and put you behind bars.” He further stated, “We can talk of anything else and make compromises maybe but not when the interest of my country is at stake.”

As if tensions aren’t high enough, word has surfaced that should the threat of terrorism spread into other parts of the country, President Duterte would not hesitate to put the entire country under the control of martial law. This treat only serves to bring up the fear that was present when former President Ferdinand Marcos abused the powers associated with martial law to eliminate his opposition.

In 1987, a new Constitution was ratified by the Filipino Congress. The new Constitution was written to eliminate any possibility that the country could fall under the control of any one man without the approval of Congress. With Duterte ready to remain defiant, the strength of the commitment to the new Constitution could be tested.