Just my Opinion by Raïssa Robles
There is now an undeclared Martial Law in Boracay.
Think about it.
Over 600 heavily armed policemen in full battle gear are now in the resort island, backed up by elements of the Armed Forces through its NAVY Seals. There is even a patrolling gunboat.
Such deployments are usually reserved for battle zones in Mindanao. Or for the site of a natural catastrophe – like Haiyan in Tacloban City. But never in a resort island where the main problem – according to President Rodrigo Duterte – is human waste floating in the sea waters and open inland canals.
Note that, despite the water pollution, there is no massive outbreak of any deadly disease like typhoid, cholera or gastroenteritis, which might justify an emergency measure such as the proclamation of “a state of calamity”.
Note, too, that Duterte’s Proclamation No. 475, declaring a “State of Calamity” in the three villages comprising Boracay gives no time limit. Initially, it set a time limit of “six months starting 26 April 2018 or until 25 October 2018″.
But two paragraphs later, it glibly takes back this deadline and states: “The state of calamity in the island of Boracay shall remain in force and effect until lifted by the President notwithstanding the lapse of the six-month closure period.”
These kinds of twisted statements were issued often during one of the Philippines’ darkest periods – Martial Law under Dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
And now, even Duterte officials speak the same language as Marcos.
For instance, Department of Interior and Local Governments Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing told Agence France Presse wire agency that the militarization of Boracay was “just part of preparing for the worst”.
The fact that it was Densing doing the talking to the media made me sit up. This is the same man who, several months ago, was pushing for President Rodrigo Duterte to declare a revolutionary government.
Densing’s “just part of preparing for the worst” harkens back to a legal concept that Marcos used to grab power and destroy the Republic. The “imminent danger thereof” clause used to be part of the Philippine president’s Martial Law powers. This clause was in the 1935 Constitution (copied from the US Congress’ Militia Act of 1792). It was this clause that Marcos used in order to justify his imposition of Martial Law in 1972 against the threat of communist rebels.
The1935 Constitution gave the President broad martial law powers. It stated that: “The President shall be commander-in-chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and, whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion, insurrection, or rebellion. In case of invasion, insurrection, or rebellion, or imminent danger thereof, when the public safety requires it, he may suspend the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus, or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law. (Article VII, sec. 10 (2), Executive Department.
In our present Constitution, that phrase “or imminent danger thereof” has been scrapped and other safeguards put in place [bold-face mine]: “The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and, whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion, insurrection, or rebellion. In case of invasion, insurrection, or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he may, for a period not exceeding sixty days, suspend the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus, or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law. Within forty-eight hours from the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, the President shall submit a report in person or in writing to the Congress.
My suspicion deepened that there is an undeclared Martial Law in Boracay when Tourism Undersecretary Frederick Alegre gave a press conference on April 14 to announce “media guidelines”.
He said the DOT was limiting the number of journalists per news outfit: “The limit that we imposed is just that so we can control the number of people in the island. As you know, there’s a lot to clean up, and when you get to the island, you will be assigned an area where you can cover, and there will be escorts that will guide you to certain areas if you wish to go.
“We will not allow the media also to stay overnight. You will have to get in at 8 am and like everybody else, you have to get out by 5 pm.”
In other words, the media won’t be allowed to roam around freely and an escort will be assigned to each journalist or news team. Doesn’t this remind you of the “embedded media” rules the US military used to control coverage of its Iraq invasion?
It also means residents of Boracay will not be able to talk to the media freely.
That kind of media restriction was understandably imposed in Marawi City. But in Boracay? There have also been reports that movements of residents will be strictly monitored and controlled, that there’ll be checkpoints, curfews and everyone will be required to have an ID that will serve as a pass. Just like the days of the Japanese Occupation.
This is also why I am AGAINST the imposition of the National I.D. It is not going to be for improved government services. It is meant to control the movement of the population and to identify not just suspected criminals but also critics of the government, communist and Muslim rebels.
Overnight, the government has turned a resort island paradise into a heavily garrisoned area. What justifies such harsh security measures reminiscent of Marcos’ Martial Law?
The government is using Republic Act No. 10121 or the “Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010” to justify declaring a “State of Calamity”. To read the law, click here.
But if you look at RA 10121, you wonder—on what grounds?
This law defines a state of calamity this way:
(ll) “State of Calamity” – a condition involving mass casualty and/or major damages to property, disruption of means of livelihoods, roads and normal way of life of people in the affected areas as a result of the occurrence of natural or human-induced hazard.
While reading it, the thing that came to my mind was that it was the government that was triggering this particular “state of calamity”.
But, let’s for a moment go along with what the government said that it was to save the people of Boracay and the tourists going there from a “human-induced hazard”.
However, RA 10121 is very specific in defining what a “hazard” is:
(v) “Hazard” – a dangerous phenomenon, substance, human activity or condition that may cause loss of life, injury or other health impacts, property damage, loss of livelihood and services, social and economic disruption, or environmental damage.
Two aspects of this definition seem to fit: “other health impacts” due to astronomic level of coliform bacteria in the eastern side of the island and environment damage.
But the rest of the “hazards” seem to be induced by the government in this case.
If fecal contamination is the case, why is there no health epidemic in Boracay? Sure, it sorely needs to be addressed. But to the extent of shutting down the island completely and restricting media access to monitor the rehabilitation?
It is this reason of high coliform bacteria that bothers me immensely.
Because Pasig River and Manila Bay have an even higher count of coliform bacteria and yet the poor swim there.
Can Manila also be shut down like Boracay?
Quite a number of Filipinos have praised Duterte for his iron fist approach to Boracay.
Duterte is making Filipinos get used to such harsh measures. Remember, the whole of Mindanao is still under “Martial Law”. And the entire Philippines is under a “state of emergency”.
If we don’t value our freedoms, we will lose them. The question that comes to mind though, is, do we even understand what freedoms are and why they’re important?
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The waters in Zamboanga City look even more fetid than the sea surrounding Boracay.
Will the President also proclaim a State of Calamity there? If not, why not? See –