Thursday, May 25, 2017

Martial law and military courts in the Philippines

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines has placed part of the country under martial law, so we can expect to read about military courts trying civilians. From this report:
Most countries use a different system, such as announcing a state of emergency, but in the Philippines the President can place an area under the control of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. 
The features of martial law involve:
  • Curfews
  • The suspension of civil law, civil rights and habeas corpus
  • The application of military law or military justice to civilians
  • Civilians defying martial law being subjected to military tribun[al]s (Court Martials)
Although the legal effects of martial law differ depending on where it is issued, it generally involves the suspension of ordinary civil rights. 
A state of martial law is temporary in theory, but could continue indefinitely.
Human Rights Watch's statement gives some useful background:
In 1972, then-President [Ferdinand] Marcos imposed martial law and suspended habeas corpus throughout the Philippines, which facilitated widespread abuses by the military and other security forces, including detention without charge, torture, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings. These abuses did not end when martial law was lifted in early 1981. The 1987 Philippine Constitution, which was drafted after Marcos’s overthrow during [the] “people power” revolution in 1986, places restrictions on the proclamation of martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, as well as on their implementation. 
Article VII, section 18 of the Constitution empowers the president in the event of “invasion or rebellion” to impose martial law and suspend habeas corpus for up to 60 days. A majority of members of both houses of Congress can revoke – or extend – the proclamation or suspension without the president’s approval. 
Also under section 18, the Supreme Court may review a case brought by any citizen contesting the factual basis for martial law, and must hand down its decision within 30 days. 
The Constitution also provides some important due process protections during martial law, Human Rights Watch said. A state of martial law does not suspend the Constitution, nor replace the functioning of the civil courts or Congress. It only permits military courts to try civilians when civil courts are unable to function. Suspension of habeas corpus applies only to people judicially charged for rebellion or offenses linked to invasion, and those arrested or detained must still be charged by the courts within three days or be released.

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