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