May 2018
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Consensus and Enforcement

Marcos Declares Martial Lawkeep public order – in that order. Without fundamental agreement on the basics, no amount of force will work. Martial law and drug wars are EMERGENCY measures. Hobbes did have a pessimistic view of human nature, that without a strong central authority (linkeach person would have a right, or license, to everything in the world, leading to a “war of all against all”. Sounds like the notorious culture of impunity in the Philippines, or the road rage and counterflow in Filipino traffic.

Enforce what order?

Trouble is that Hobbes makes the assumption that you can form a state that imposes order from a disorderly people – something that many banana republics have shown to be impossible. Miyako Izabel, an anthropologist from Mindanao, rightly asks (link): May mga sundalo o pulis na magbabantay sa walang taong kalsada sa tahimik na gabi. Magrorosaryo ba ang mga ‘yan? Mag-iisip po sila ng raket. Meaning that the power of Martial Law may lead corrupt elements in authority to start rackets.

The Philippine consensus is in theory the 1987 Constitution, but many do not really know what it means – probably not even the President. Ideally the Constitution of a nation should embody the General Will as defined by Rousseau (link) as the common interest embodied in legal tradition. The Swiss have that in their legal tradition dating back to the first Federal Charter of 1291 (link) which starts with: for the common good and proper establishment of peace, the following rules are agreed..

The Philippine legal tradition is of laws imposed from above by colonial powers and then by the educated elites who failed to reach most of the people – or did talk to the people but these simply nodded without understanding or asking questions, a legacy of colonialism AND the Philippine class system. In practice human rights meant little to poor people who could often be put in jail for years on end without a trial, or now are often shot as suspects – or to indigenous people in logging or mining areas.

Insiders and Outsiders

It is with insiders that a certain consensus starts. The US Declaration of Independence at first did not mean blacks and women. Nor did the Swiss at first give equal rights to certain areas conquered by the Canton of Bern, leading to rebellions especially among French-speaking Swiss (link). And Mindanao was only turned over to Filipino administration in 1920 (link) leading to this: Moros complained of inexperienced Filipino officials who abused their powers; harsh suppressive measures of the Philippine Constabulary; mysterious deaths of Moro leaders who opposed Philippine independence.. and the continued immigration of Christian Filipinos into Moroland. (page 26) But there also were those like  Teofisto Guingona.. first Filipino to head the Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes in 1930, introduced.. “New Deal Policy” for Mindanao aimed at preventing unrest and promoting the integration of Muslims into Filipino society. (page 27) This is inviting outsiders to become insiders.

A President from Mindanao should have been able to handle things better. Martial Law in Mindanao labels his own area as the Wild South once more. He was born elsewhere and moved to Mindanao in 1949, when his father moved there (link) and is part of the complex history of the island. Yet such a person should know that the atrocities of Marcos’ Martial Law in Mindanao made many Muslims feel more like outsiders and is at the root of many of today’s problems. My impression has also been that each successive Philippine administration had its own favorites among the Muslim ethnic groups, playing a mixture of postcolonial politics and Malay alliances. This does not seem to have changed with Duterte – while his predecessor seemed to favor the MILF, his friendship with Nur Misuari is very openly known. The recent cut of EU money may for all we know have been aimed at the DEPAdev project (link) among others, which is about empowering political parties and civic society in Bangsamoro.

Republic of Trapos

is what the Philippines has been since Aguinaldo. There was the Kartilya of the Katipunan (link), Mabini’s Dekalogo (link), followed by Quezon’s Code of Citizenship and Ethics (link) – but the habits of power of the political elite, formed out of a mix of (post-)colonialism and Malay social structure, proved stronger than nice words. Bonifacio was executed by Aguinaldo’s troops. Heneral Luna was murdered outright. Quezon built not only the 1935 Constitution but most of the institutions that persist until today. Yet right after World War 2, warlords began to control many provinces of the Philippines. Then came Martial Law which turned Constabulary, Police and Armed Forces into de facto private goons for a Supreme Warlord and his clan. Then came democracy, but in many parts it unravelled into de facto culture of impunity. There is the 1987 Constitution, so often ignored in practice and often a bit like the piano in many Filipino households that is never played – or the so-called clean kitchen for display only.

Duterte has called himself owner of Malacañan and of the Philippines on various occasions. He makes no more pretense of cooking anywhere else but in the dirty kitchen. Is this a wake-up call for those who pretended the Philippines was a modern nation – while armed groups thrived in so many places and only Leila de Lima investigated some killings in Davao back then? How will the General Will of the Philippines be defined and lived? Will it be with more inclusion and follow-through than in 1987?

Irineo B. R. Salazar

München, May 25, 2017

6 comments to Consensus and Enforcement

  • – Vicente Rafael

    From J.S. Furnivall writing on crime and criminality in 1938 as a direct function of the colonial state–what he calls the Leviathan– in British-controlled Burma. In linking crime to state formation, he sounds so very relevant to post-colonial states. My comments follow.

    “When, under Leviathan, the ties of social life are loosed and men become, as it were, free among the dead, one thing is as reasonable as another; theft becomes as reasonable as honesty, provided that it is not discovered. Leviathan may be omnipresent and all powerful, but he does not, like your neighbor, live next door, or like your conscience, nearer still. That is the explanation of the paradox that Leviathan is least efficient where he is most effective; he cannot maintain law and order so well as a society that maintains order without law, and as we have seen, offenses multiplied in Moulmien where Leviathan was very active in attempting to maintain order among a motley population, while the quiet stationary provinces with less regulation but a stronger social life continued free from crime.”

    My comment: Furnivall was writing about Tenasserim in the early half of the nineteenth century but could just as well be referring to other places. Most pre-colonial societies in Southeast Asia had codified practices for dealing with social offenses. However, Furnivall seems to suggest that such codes did not amount to “laws” inasmuch as these did not emanate from a recognizably modern state. He reads into pre-colonial Burma an idyllic state where disorder was dealt with through the forces of moral suasion and “popular opinion.” All this changed with the arrival of the British. Native society was reorganized not for “life” but in the interest of “production”.

    Leviathan turned headmen into bureaucrats and police, thereby undercutting the local basis of their authority. It introduced large numbers of foreign laborers to exploit the forests, fields and mines, thereby creating a plural society. It thus set the conditions for the emergence of a new sense of equivalence among things so that, for example, “theft becomes as reasonable as honesty,provided it was not discovered.” That discovery became, in turn, the business of colonial law as it sought to institute distinctions and boundaries in a place and at a time where everything seemed to be in flux.

    But instituting the law among a “motley population” could only be done at a remove from these groups. The state enforced the law only by maintaining a gap between itself and the peoples it administered. In doing so, it opened up opportunities for evasion among criminals and all sorts of corruption among police. The “measures for improving the apprehension of offenders were at the same time the causes of the multiplication of offenses”, Furnivall writes later on. There was a sense then that Leviathan, as the keeper of the law, was fundamentally complicit with the criminal acts that it sought to control.

  • – by Prof. Segundo Romero


    Martial Law, above all, is a paradigm. It is pushing the envelope of governmental authority to the extreme, in effect diminishing the civil and political rights of persons who become persons of interest in the drive to stamp out rebellion or invasion. It is a stultifying, black cloud that dampens everything — enterprise, mobility, personal freedom, communication. It creates an atmosphere of suspicion, fear, uncertainty, even paralysis.

    I cannot see how Martial Law will boost the economic output of Mindanao. And I cannot see how the poor, the marginalized, and vulnerable peoples of Mindanao will have better qualities of life as they are now jerked around, escaping actions by combatant forces directed at one another, but with the people as the real losers. I cannot see how inclusive local governance can be practiced.

    Of course, Martial Law can be used as an “instrument of national development” as Marcos thought was the way out of the clutches of the oligarchy. Revolution from the Center, not from the bottom, not from the middle, not from the top, but from Government itself, clothed with authoritarian powers.

    But this strategy requires a Ferdinand Marcos capable of grand political strategic schemes, coached in overarching framework such as “The Filipino Ideology” and “the Democratic Revolution.” Marcos was an dictator, but he formed and listened to his handpicked team consisting of the best minds with their own gravitas, available to a constitutional authoritarian regime that promises a chance of real change — the likes of Onofre D Corpuz in Education, Carlo P Romulo in Foreign Affairs, Arturo Tangco of Agriculture, Jose Rono in Local Government, Jose Leido in Environment and Natural Resources.

    Duterte declared Martial Law at a time he felt vulnerable. He was away on foreign land, with the core of his political, economic, and military advisers. The context of vulnerability and inadequate information must have defined his action — “When in doubt, use a sledgehammer.”

    Sledgehammer it was. The “declaration of martial law” announced to the world consisted of the actual declaration itself. Nobody apparently cared to think through the premises, or “whereases” that should have been carefully crafted and announced. It was nothing more than a verbal declaration. Apparently, we are told belatedly, there was an actual piece of paper that contained the declaration, but it must have been so insignificant the President and his staff “forgot” the piece of paper in his Moscow hotel.

    The President had all the right advisers with him on his entourage, but he made his decision on his own, without their inputs. In the press conference announcing the declaration of martial law, a reporter asked Sec Abella who President Duterte consulted before the decision. Sec Abella said Duterte “consulted his own group.” Sec Lorenzana and Sec Cayetano were there in that press conference but neither said he was in that group.

    So, what’s done is done. For months, Duterte itched to declare martial law. It is as if a Higher Intelligence Being (HIB) has studied his moves, and has baited him, and he took the bait. Come to think of it, were the Davao bombing last August, and the Abu incursion in Bohol last month and the current Marawi action three dots in a series? We can only wonder about the fragility of the Presidential decision-making process.

    The police and military all along thought they were on the offensive against a Local Terrorist Group (LTG), out to arrest or neutralize Isnilon Hapilon in Marawi. But the Maute-Abu Sayyaf coalition, in an unexpected show of strength, embedded in a wide area but capable of assemblying “pintakasi style,” were ready with their own strategy — demonstrate their allegiance to ISIS and show they could hold a major target as against the combined policeand military forces of the Philippines.
    The Maute-Afu Sayyaf group has apparently not withdrawn, holding their ground, shooting with firearms and video cameras for the benefit of an international audience of their resilience. If remaining in the news and gaining “respect” in ISIS terrorist circles is their aim they are successful.

    The appearance of the ISIS flag in the pictures out of Marawi became a red flag before a snorting bull feeling isolated in Moscow. And so the road to martial law in Mindanao has been taken. That, to me, has closed the road to inclusive development in Mindanao for the next few years, if not for another generation.

    Can things get worse? Of course. An ISIS “inspired” event in Metro Manila will automatically trigger a knee-jerk reaction from Duterte, declaring Martial Law nationwide. That will complete, and hasten, the catastrophe of Duterte. A case of another “curiously flabby strongman”?

    So, heroically the whole government machinery strains to bring back normalcy. Meantime, where is the institutional energy and commitment to developmental change? Fighting poverty? Fighting homelessness? Fighting lack of employment and livelihood? Fighting poor health?

    The pursuit of development with security is of course possible for a President whose mind works like a swiss knife. Unfortunately, the President’s mind seems to be inordinately preoccupied with drugs.

    • Mariano Renato Pacifico

      There is no need of Martial Law. Current administration can do what it want to do with impunity An impunity supported by the majority of the Filipinos who are tired of impunity of the others. Martial Law is only a word, a phrase that in the context of this country is now curently under un-declared Martial Law, like, what I said Filipinos are lovin’ it so am I.

      The anti-martial law pseudo-intellectual libertarians just wanted to push their personal knowledge of esoteric democratic ideals not really for the people that wanted real instant visible resolution to the problem.

      If ever Duterte declares Martial Law I believe, in my view, Filipinos would welcome it. They would feel secure with military roaming around in their humvees bristling with their garand and carbines while PMAyers show off their AR-15s.

      I am never intimidated by soldiers. I go to them. I talk to them. They respond in kind with a smile assuring me everything is OK because they, too, have families, extended relatives and friends that needed assurance there is no harm done.

      Let us be reminded the Martial Law implementors are Filipinos, too. They are also concerned of their friends and families not to be harmed by fellow soldiers.

      So, everything is good. Our soldieers are not as bad as during the medieval days of 1970s Martial Law. People do not shoot anymore. They shoot with their tweeter and facebook accounts.

  • Chemrock

    Nice read Irineo.
    By the way, this site is not mobile friendly.

    • Thanks Chemrock!
      Sometimes you have to refresh once so the titles on the left become smaller – my experience on Samsung A3 and A6 phones…
      But for comments I never use mobile phone, so I guess that is really not well-handled on this page.

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