Trusting Duterte

Will President Rodrigo Duterte expand both the scope and the time frame of the imposition of martial law, now that the Supreme Court has ruled that there is factual basis for military rule in order to combat the threat of terrorism? That will depend on how Duterte—and Duterte alone—perceives the seriousness of the threat.

The heads of both the military and the police, speaking after the results of the high court’s voting were made public, announced that they will recommend that martial law in all of Mindanao be extended beyond the 60 days that the Constitution allows a sitting president to impose it. There is no word yet from the authorities if the ruling will pave the way for the imposition of military rule beyond the country’s second-biggest island in the south.

Of course, congressional approval is required for the extension of martial law beyond July 23. But given Congress’ earlier favorable action on Duterte’s Proclamation 216 and unless the continuing conflict in Marawi is resolved, I have no doubt that the President will seek an extension of military rule—and possibly covering a bigger area.

What seems to be clear, as well, is that the Supreme Court has not been swayed into believing that the terrorist threat is confined in the area of Marawi, as three of the four dissenters to the majority vote claimed. Because in past experience has taught us that terrorists here and abroad are no believers in traditional territorial boundaries, it would be foolish to say that their movements can be restricted by the lines on a map.

The Abu Sayyaf Group, for instance, has recently gone as far as Bohol province in the Visayas, where their attempts to establish a foothold were fortunately thwarted by civilians and the authorities working together. This should deep-six the contention of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Associate Justices Antonio Carpio and Alfredo Caguioa that martial law should be imposed only in Marawi City, where the war continues to rage.

The ruling also acknowledges that the Executive, for the most part, and Congress, to a lesser extent, is always better informed that the Supreme Court about the situation on the ground and should be given enough leeway to quickly address problems like terrorism by unsheathing the sword of martial law. As I never tire of saying, if the framers of the 1987 Constitution hated martial law so much, they never should have kept it in the basic law that they drafted.

Duterte has proven so far that he can be trusted to impose martial law in Mindanao and nearly everyone on the island is glad that he did. I suggest we let the President do his job, instead of listening to those who would rather that the terrorists win, if only to spite the President.

* * *

There must be another way to punish erring policemen other than reassigning them to places where they may actually cause more harm. Like those two cops who beat up a couple of men they had arrested for violating curfew regulations in Mandaluyong, who have now been sent to war-torn Marawi City, of all places.

PO1 Jose Julius Tandog and his partner PO1 Chito Enriquez gained online fame last week when one of two men they assaulted with a wooden club inside a police station was able to capture their brutality on his cellphone camera. Tandog repeatedly whacked one suspect while Enriquez kept the two of them from fighting back with a drawn firearm.

The two newbie cops obviously have unresolved anger management issues. And this makes them unqualified for their new assignment in the war zone that is Marawi, where security forces are still battling Islamic terrorists trying to put up an extension of the IS caliphate in the Philippines.

Metro Manila police chief Director Oscar Albayalde said the transfer of the two policemen was their punishment, “a way to take them out of their comfort zone or their sphere of influence.” But if Tandog and Enriquez take their two-man police brutality show to Marawi, I wonder if Albayalde will still think that he punished two scalawag cops—or if what he did was to penalize the people of Marawi.

I’m sure Abayalde still remembers the time when erring men in uniform were told to “join the Navy,” or taken off the streets and put on “floating” status. And I’m willing to bet that the Metro Manila police chief must have thought about actually throwing these two cops in jail themselves, which is what would have happened to their victims if the situation was reversed and they had assaulted a couple of policemen.

The conditions in Marawi, where war has been going on for six weeks now, are not conducive to reforming violent policemen accused of mauling civilians. In fact, the entire idea of punishing cops who cross the line by sending them to hardship posts like Sulu or Basilan is an insult to the people there, who cannot be blamed if they feel like they have become dumpsites for men in uniform who are the equivalent of human garbage.

I’d like to believe that, in general, the members of the national police force are not as abusive or stupid as Tandog and Enriquez. They should be penalized by dismissal or jail time or both.

The people of Marawi, who have already suffered so much, do not deserve these monsters in uniform.

Topics: Jojo Robles , Trusting Duterte , President Rodrigo Duterte , martial law , Supreme Court , terrorism
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