“Martial Law in Mindanao: Length and Scope” by Malcolm Cook

2017/33, 29 May 2017

President Duterte’s 23 May declaration of martial law (and the suspension of the writ of habeus corpus) in Mindanao immediately sparked two questions; how long and how broad?

Less than a week later, there are strong signs that President Duterte is considering extending martial law beyond its initial 60-day period. President Duterte has appointed General Año as the martial law administrator in Mindanao for an initial period of six – not two – months. President Duterte is on the public record stating he will listen to the armed forces and the police, not Congress or the Supreme Court as required by the Constitution, on when it will be time to lift martial law. In this same speech at an army base in Mindanao, the president said that martial law will also target individuals involved with illegal drugs.

There also are indications that President Duterte may try to expand the geographical scope of martial law. The presidential proclamation on martial law justifies the declaration of martial law for all of Mindanao after a clash between the government and the Maute terrorist group in Marawi City. It states that “this recent attack shows the capability of the Maute group and other rebel groups to sow terror, and cause death and damage to property not only in Lanao del Sur but also in other parts of Mindanao.” In a 24 May press conference, President Duterte publicly stated that he may need to declare martial law and suspend the writ of habeus corpus in the Visayas and Luzon (hence the whole country) to deal with the ISIS threat in the Philippines.

According to the 1987 Constitution, the extension of martial law beyond 60 days is a responsibility of Congress upon the request of the president. Come 22 July, Congress may well have to act on this Constitutional responsibility and not for Mindanao alone.

Dr Malcolm Cook is Senior Fellow at the Regional Strategic and Political Studies Programme at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute.
The facts and views expressed are solely that of the author/authors and do not necessarily reflect that of ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute.  No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without permission.