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Your Questions About Martial Law Answered

We know you have questions, Cosmo Girls.
PHOTO: YouTube/RTVMalacanang

On Tuesday, May 23, at around 10PM, President Rodrigo Duterte declared Martial Law over Mindanao for 60 days after a militant group attacked and attempted to take control of Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. CNN Philippines put together a video of the facts we should know about this declaration.

Naturally, citizens brought their thoughts and questions on social media about this.

To help you understand this, we asked a lawyer* who specializes in constitutional law litigation and is a graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Law to answer some of your questions about this recent declaration below.

*He has asked his name be removed from this article due to the nature of his work.

 1. What is Martial Law and why would a president declare it?

"Martial law is one of the powers of the president as commander in chief of the armed forces. The other two powers are the power to call out the armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion, and the power to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.**


A president may declare martial law only in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it. So to declare martial law, the president must be able to meet two requirements: the existence of invasion OR rebellion, AND the existence of a threat to public safety. It boils down to the maintenance of law and order. (Article VII, Section 18 of the Constitution)"

 2. Should citizens, especially those residing in Mindanao, be alarmed?

"They should not panic. It is better for them to understand what is happening first, to understand what martial law is all about, and then to act accordingly.

The presence of the armed forces will be felt for sure and there will be restrictions in movement, e.g., checkpoints. But the constitution is still in effect: their rights under the bill of rights should still be there and the civil courts should still be functioning."

 3. How different is this Martial Law from the one that the late president Ferdinand Marcos declared in 1972?

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"Martial law under the 1987 Constitution is the same as the one imposed by Marcos in terms of purpose: the military will take over civil governments in Mindanao, enforce the laws, and maintain peace and order.

"The difference lies in the requirements for its declaration (invasion, rebellion + public safety) and its limitations (the constitution is not suspended, civil courts are open, privilege of habeas corpus is not suspended, etc.). Any citizen can now question the factual basis of the declaration of martial law before the Supreme Court. Mas madaming checks and balances 'yung power to declare martial law ngayon."

 4. Will curfew be in effect?

"The president or the military could impose curfew, hindi ko lang alam kung gagawin nila."

And regarding the video of President Rodrigo Duterte's statement that his Martial Law is the same as Marcos' (he said, "Pero ang martial law is martial law, ah. So kayong mga kababayan ko, you have experienced martial law. It could not be any different from what the President Marcos did. I'd be... I'd be harsh."), we also asked the lawyer to help us understand this and let us know what he thinks of this statement—because some people got a bit scared when this was said.


He explained, "On what the President said in the news, 'yun 'yung similarities. It's military rule. It really poses a threat to civil liberties. Pero marami ring limitations, so hindi rin basta-bastang military rule."

"Quoting Justice Vicente Mendoza in the case of David vs. Arroyo, 'Of the three powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief, the power to declare Martial Law poses the most severe threat to civil liberties.  It is a strong medicine which should not be resorted to lightly.  It cannot be used to stifle or persecute critics of the government. It is placed in the keeping of the President for the purpose of enabling him to secure the people from harm and to restore order so that they can enjoy their individual freedoms.'"

** "The writ of habeas corpus literally means "produce the body." A person may file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus if the person is detained or deprived of his liberty illegally. The court may issue the writ and the respondent must file a return (mag-explain sa court 'yung kinasuhan kung nasaan 'yung taong ikinulongano'ng status niya, ano'ng sitwasyon niyanakakulong pa ba o nakalaya na).


The primary purpose of the writ is to inquire into all manner of involuntary restraint as distinguished from voluntary, and to relieve a person therefrom if such restraint is illegal."

This story originally appeared on

* Minor edits have been made by the editors.


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