One of the few nations to have instituted martial law as a normal process or state of affairs happens to be none other than the Philippines. The Philippines, ever since it got its independence nearly a century ago, has had to face circumstances wherein the rights of its citizens from civil rights, right to due process, privileges were all suspended. It should also be pointed out that the Philippine government of the time, instituted martial law after declaring emergency either for the whole nation or for sections of it, especially those considered as hostile to the government in question.
In retrospect, the declaration of emergency and the institution of martial law at the will of the executive set in place a precedent which continues to this day. It gave carte blanche to the head of the government, to declare an emergency with very little factual proof to back up the same. In fact, a few historians have even castigated some of the western nations for tolerating this sham of an emergency. In fact, many of the journalists covering these events had recorded evidence of police brutality being exercised against opposition members.
Some of the positive effects of martial law:
It should still be pointed out that during the last few decades’ rights from the civil war, riots did break out frequently. And the government of the day was able to quell these riots, institute law, and order, and ensure that life carried on as usual or near usual by imposing martial law. The martial law which came with an overreaching control over the resources of the state saw the Philippines utilized the same to strengthen its infrastructure and develop a robust economic model.
Some of the negative effects of the Martial law in the Philippines:
The frequent declaration of martial law did indeed set a bad precedent, one which President Marcos employed to great effect, by conferring on himself the powers of the legislative and the judiciary in 1972. The Philippines has seen several dictators come and go in the recent past, and yet, the urge for personal gratification at the cost of one’s freedom and democracy seems to run rife to this day. While earlier periods of emergency did have some factual basis resulting in the imposition, the later ones did not and Marcos took this as an opportunity to dismantle the very basis of the 1935 constitution. He went on to craft a constitution that declared certain groups, namely the communists as an enemy of the state. Keep in mind that some of the detractors of the Marcos regime and its trappings of aggrandization happened to be members of the communists’ party, who were often some of the chief opponents of Marcos. It was during this period that saw the disappearance of Marcos’ chief opponents and one can guess why.
However, with the 1973 constitution, democracy or a sort of democracy was restored with Marcos as the president with no end to his tenure in sight. Most of the human rights groups often consider this period to be one of the darkest because Marcos was now free to literally hunt out all his opponents under the guise of emergency and that’s exactly what he did.
Martial law, where one’s rights and privileges including fundamental rights are suspended and a curfew are instituted in place is something that most nations resort to as the last choice. But as far as the Philippines is concerned, that often seemed to be the very first thing that most of their leaders have opted for, which only goes on to show you that the Philippines is yet to come to terms with its own independence or for that matter, democracy.
Marcos went on to rule the nation until 1986 when he was forced to abdicate his office and was forced to leave on exile. After Marcos, there were at least a few other incidents of martial law where sections of Philippines was placed under martial law to subvert and even prevent riots, as well as opposition protests on some of the current government’s policies. But what became apparent shortly thereafter, was that there was an unofficial purge being carried out against non-Muslims in and around Mindanao, where even schools were bombed for one reason or the other. The Philippines government is yet to give any clear explanation for this other than to reaffirm the fact that emergencies or appearance of a civil unrest is enough to get the government of the day to impose martial law either on specific areas or on the nation as a whole. It is indeed a pity that the Philippines, despite its long independence, is yet to truly enjoy any and any opposition to the government of the day may well result in your civil rights being suspended indefinitely.