Revolutionizing martial law

By Perry Diaz

Duterte visits Marawi

Duterte visits Marawi

Recently, political debate was sparked on whether the 1987 Constitution would allow President Rodrigo Duterte to form a revolutionary government in lieu of declaring martial law. Supporters of Duterte say that by forming a revolutionary government, he doesn’t have to make a report to Congress, which is a proviso of the 1987 Constitution when martial law is declared.

The framers of the Constitution believed that by requiring the President to report to Congress when the President declares martial law, it would prevent a repeat of the Marcos-era martial rule where Congress was transformed into rubber-stamp legislative body. It supplanted the rule of law with the rule of man.

But President Duterte figures that by forming a revolutionary government, he can still avail of the military’s support, which is stacked up with loyalist Dutertistas, who would keep him – and themselves — in power. And they’ll be part of a power structure that will protect their personal and business interests. It’s a philosophy that keeps the few elite in power.


Drug-pusher-killed-and-wifeDuterte’s campaign against criminality and illegal drugs has so far claimed the lives of at least 10,000 alleged drug users. However the “war on drugs” has failed to put the powerful drug lords out of action. Duterte himself has admitted to the existence of Chinese triads in the country. Tons of the illegal drug “shabu” continue to proliferate the country due to conniving customs officials, powerful smugglers, and corrupt influence peddlers.

But what is interesting to know is that with all these anti-crime, anti-drug, anti-corruption, and anti-poverty campaign the government is pursuing, the country is still sick just as it was once when it was called the “Sick Man of Asia.” The government hasn’t eradicated poverty as it claims it to be. The peso is falling and the cost of food is going up.

Stop-EJKWith each passing day, the country’s gloomy situation has evoked fears of martial law. And as criticism against Duterte’s “war on drugs” and extrajudicial killings intensifies, Duterte warned that he’d declare a revolutionary government if his critics’ attempt to ”destabilize” the government escalates and causes trouble. He accused the “Reds” (communists) and the “Yellows” (Liberal Party and supporters of former President Benigno Aquino III) of conspiring against him. He said that he’d arrest all of the destabilizers once he declares a revolutionary government, just like what Marcos did when he declared martial law. He jailed almost all of the Liberal Party leaders including Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. (Cory’s husband).

He likens his move to what former President Cory Aquino did. He said that Cory was about to declare martial law and then changed her mind and instead declared a revolutionary government.

However, lawyer Romulo Macalintal disagreed. In a media interview, Macalintal said that as a lawyer, Duterte should know that “revolutionary government is the result of a revolution where the existing legitimate government is completely overthrown by a new group of leaders that establishes its own government.”

He cited the EDSA People Power Revolution in 1986 that ousted the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and installed Cory Aquino as its “titular head,” and later as the chief executive, under the Freedom Constitution (also known as the Cory Constitution).

If Duterte insists on pursuing a revolutionary government, then it goes without saying that he is doing it to circumvent the Constitution; thus, it is illegal and unconstitutional. It is also presumed that Congress would cease to exist, as we know it. How can it continue to function as a legislative body under a revolutionary government where Duterte would rule by decree? He might allow Congress to exist only to rubber-stamp his own legislative agenda. Wasn’t that what had happened during Marcos’ martial law era?

The Supreme Court under a revolutionary government could likewise be under the indirect control of Duterte. In my column, “Dutertesized Supreme Court” (September 22, 2017), I wrote: “If Duterte succeeds in removing [Chief Justice Maria Lourdes] Sereno and appoints someone whom he knows would be loyal to him, it would create a 13-justice super bloc that could easily provide him with a minimum eight-vote majority.”


The Fascists: Spain’s Francisco Franco, Germany’s Adolf Hitler, and Italy’s Benito Mussolini.

The Fascists: Spain’s Francisco Franco, Germany’s Adolf Hitler, and Italy’s Benito Mussolini.

If Duterte succeeds in appointing majority of the Supreme Court Justices led by a Chief Justice of his own picking, then Duterte’s revolutionary government would become a one-man dictatorship in the mold of the late Benito Mussolini, the founder of Fascism, a form of radical authoritarian nationalism characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition, and control of industry and commerce. Fascism flourished in Europe from the 1920s to the end of World War II. The three major fascist states were Germany under Hitler, Italy under Mussolini, and Spain under Franco.

Mussolini believed that the government is “supreme and the country is all-encompassing, and all within it must conform to the ruling body, often a dictator.” Mussolini also believed that “any type of questioning the government is not to be tolerated. If you do not see things our way, you are wrong. If you do not agree with the government, you cannot be allowed to live and taint the minds of the rest of the good citizens.”

Dutertism is clearly fascistic in its philosophical outlook. Its strong emphasis on nationalism coupled with a hazy “independent” foreign policy is nothing more than a camouflage for what Dutertism hopes to achieve, which is total subjugation of the people under a fascistic regime.

President Rodrigo Duterte and the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

President Rodrigo Duterte and the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Duterte’s idea of a revolutionary government can be traced to Marcos’ martial law regime. Indeed, Duterte is taking a page from Marcos’ playbook. It is “revolutionary” in name only. It is martial law disguised as revolutionary government. What Duterte is doing is revolutionizing martial law. It’s one and the same with one exception: Congress is left out of the power equation. Indeed, it’s coup d’état against the democratic government he was elected to serve.


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