Lawyers: Martial law does NOT strip you of your rights

May 24, 2017 - 11:47 AM

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte placed Mindanao under martial law late Tuesday after fighting broke out in Marawi City between government forces and gunmen from the Maute group.

In announcing the declaration in Moscow, where Duterte was visiting, his spokesman Ernesto Abella invoked Article VII, Section 18 of the 1987 Constitution: “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 or rebellion. In case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he may, for a period not exceeding sixty days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law.”

Because many Filipinos lived — and suffered — through the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, who declared the country under martial law in 1972, Duterte’s declaration was met with apprehension in many quarters.

Ironically, while attempting to allay fears, Duterte, before leaving Moscow after cutting short his trip, warned: “Martial law is martial law ha … so kayong mga kababayan ko (my countrymen) who have experienced martial law, it may not be too different from what President Marcos did … I’d be harsh.”

But how “harsh” does the Constitution actually allow him to be?

The National Union of People’s Lawyers, whose members are committed to protect, defend and promote human rights, issued this checklist.


  • suspend the operation of the Constitution
  • supplant the functioning of the civilian courts or legislative bodies
  • give jurisdiction on military courts and agencies over civilians
  • automatically suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus (where a person detained can question the legal basis of her/his arrest or detention and seek immediate liberty)


  • to be presumed innocent
  • against incriminating yourself
  • to due process
  • to remain silent and not to speak until a lawyer of your choice assists you
  • against use of excessive and unnecessary force upon arrest
  • to be informed why you are being arrested
  • against illegal arrests, searches and detention
  • against warrantless arrests (except for instance when you have just committed, are committing or about to commit a crime)
  • against torture, solitary confinement, cruel, degrading and inhuman punishment
  • right to counsel and access to her/him at all times
  • right to be visited by family, religious and rights organizations