Enrile says president should have sole power to declare martial law

Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 21 2022 04:33 PM | Updated as of Sep 21 2022 05:44 PM

 Presidential Legal Adviser Juan Ponce Enrile during the seventh cabinet meeting led by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. at the Malacañang Palace on Monday, Sept. 12, 2022. Yummie Dingding , PPA/ Pool
Presidential Legal Adviser Juan Ponce Enrile during the seventh cabinet meeting led by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. at the Malacañang Palace on Monday, Sept. 12, 2022. Yummie Dingding , PPA/ Pool

MANILA — Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile on Wednesday urged the Senate to bring back the sole power of declaring martial law to the sitting president, as the country marked the 50th anniversary of the military rule that he implemented under the late Ferdinand Marcos Sr.

During a Senate hearing on charter change, Enrile said seeking Congress approval to declare martial law is detrimental to the nation's interest. 

He also proposed to bring back "imminent danger" among the constitutional provisions that allowed a president to place the country under military rule. 

Under the 1987 constitution, martial law can only be declared when there is rebellion or insurrection. It also gave Congress a say on whether or not the declaration is necessary. 

"Ibig sabihin ni [former president] Cory [Aquino], kung nandiyan na 'yong giyera, binabaril na 'yong mga sundalo ninyo, natin at saka mga pulis, saka lang ako magdedeklara ng martial law," Enrile said, referring to Marcos Sr.'s successor. 

(Cory said that when the war is actually there, when our soldiers and policemen are being shot, that's the only time I should declare martial law.)

"Ang sinasabi ng 1935 Constitution at ng 1973 Constitution, 'pag nakita mo na, at natitiyak mo sa sarili mong desisyon, na ang bansa mo ay namemeligro na sasalakayin o wawasakin ng insurekto o rebelyon. Gumalaw ka na. Gamitin mo ang kamay na bakal," he said. 

(What the 1935 Constitution and 1973 Constitution are saying is that once you see and you are sure that your country is in danger of being invaded or destroyed by rebellion, you should move already. Use your iron fist.) 

For Enrile, it’s time to "scrap" the 1987 Constitution. He said the 1935 Constitution should serve as model for the next charter because it has a "continuity of policies." 

ENRILE AND MARCOS MARTIAL LAW

Marcos on Sept. 21, 1972 signed Proclamation No. 1081, which placed the country under martial law. The declaration lasted until January 1981, and the period was marred by human rights violations and massive corruption. 

Enrile said Marcor Sr. had ordered him to study the powers of the chief executive.

"Seven general orders, 7 letters of instruction, plus the proclamation: Ako lang ang nag-iisang gumawa ng mga dokumentong iyon. Kaya walang puwedeng makipagdebate sa akin," Enrile told the panel.

(Seven general orders, 7 letters of instruction, plus the proclamation: I wrote all those myself. That's why no one can debate with me.)

"Ginulo nila (framers of the 1987 Constitution) 'yong martial law provision. Noong dineklara namin yung martial law simple lang. The Supreme Court cannot intervene, nobody can interfere. The power of the President was absolute," added the 98-year-old politician.

(They messed up the martial law provision. When we declared martial law, it was just simple.)

Enrile, who was the defense chief and martial law administrator of Marcos Sr., later sided with administration critics during the 1986 People Power Revolution that toppled the late dictator.

BEAUTY OF MARTIAL LAW?

During the Senate hearing, Enrile proposed an election of 8 senators every 2 years.

He also claimed that martial law saved the Philippines from becoming a communist country. 

"We totally immobilized the entire country, curfew, lahat, baril, lisensyado pina-surrender namin. 'Pag may hawak kang baril at wala kang hawak na lisensya kukunin natin," he said.

(We confiscated firearms if you did not have a license.) 

But Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, whose namesake father was among the human rights victims during the period, said Marcos Sr. used martial law to prolong himself in power.

"That cannot be true. There would be others who would have saved the Republic of the Philippines," Pimentel said of claims that martial law saved the country.

Activist-lawyer Neri Colmenares, chairperson of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), also maintained that martial law was unnecessary. 

He also denied that the period was the country's so-called "golden years", citing poverty and unemployment.

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