ON MARAWI SIEGE, MARTIAL LAW

We join the nation in praying that normalcy returns to Marawi City soon. We support our troops and all government efforts to keep our countrymen safe. We condole with the families of those killed.

While martial law is an option available to the President and we respect this exercise of discretion, we in Congress will exercise our constitutional duty to look into the basis of the declaration and determine whether or not there is basis for its continued imposition.

Central to all this is to ensure that the constitutionally guaranteed rights of our citizens are protected and that the exercise of the martial law powers of the President are checked.

Article VII Section 18 states that martial law may be declared and the writ of habeas corpus suspended only “in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it” and not longer than 60 days.

Within 48 hours from proclaiming martial law, the President must submit a report to Congress, whether in person or in writing. If Congress does not agree that martial law should be declared or the writ of habeas corpus suspended, it can “voting jointly, by a vote of at least a majority of all its members in regular or special session” revoke the proclamation or suspension.

We urge government to protect the human rights of civilians.

To quote the constitutional provision: “A state of martial law does not suspend the operation of the Constitution, nor supplant the functioning of the civil courts or legislative assemblies, nor authorize the conferment of jurisdiction on military courts and agencies over civilians where civil courts are able to function, nor automatically suspend the privilege of the writ.

“The suspension of the privilege of the writ shall apply only to persons judicially charged for rebellion or offenses inherent in or directly connected with the invasion.

“During the suspension of the privilege of the writ, any person thus arrested or detained shall be judicially charged within three days, otherwise he shall be released.”

We support the President’s decision to cut short his trip to Russia and focus on the problem at hand and help keep everyone in Marawi City and nearby areas safe.

We urge government forces to contain and control a spillover of violence to other places.

As the situation continues to unfold, we ask for everyone’s cooperation in evacuation efforts, as well as vigilance in the face of martial law.

Our painful experience with the imposition martial law under the Marcos dictatorship should serve as a reminder that we must, as citizens, stay vigilant as the awesome powers of government concentrated on the executive can lead to rampant abuses and this we must guard against.

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is the second Philippine president to declare martial law — that time on Dec. 4, 2009 in Maguindanao in the aftermath of the Ampatuan massacre. She lifted the declaration eight days later.