Martial Law has been declared. Erap has been allowed to run for re-election. And in both accounts there have been serious questions as to who interpreted the constitution correctly.
In response to the Maguindanao massacre and the government’s difficulty in arresting everyone charged, GMA declared martial law in Maguindanao with the reason citing rebellion as the reason justifying the act. According to the law, (Article 7, Section 18) only invasion and rebellion are grounds for declaring Martial Law. Government officials admitted there was no actual rebellion – only a threat of one which was preventing them from implementing justice in the land. This raised questions within lawmakers as to what rebellion actually covers in the constitution.
For the upcoming presidential elections, former President Joseph Estrada, who wasn’t able to finish his term, decided to run once more for office. He has now filed his candidacy for the May 2010 Presidential Elections although there have been several groups who contested this. Every petition filed against his candidacy claims that he is violating a section of the Constitution (Article 7, Section 4) that prohibited any president from seeking reelection. However, his camp argues that he wasn’t able to finish his term and thus he is exempted from the given rule. This fired up debates on what the constitution really meant in that provision.
What I see in all these is that there are loopholes emerging from the country’s constitution. Either that or people just can’t understand what the law says. These two items that are being heavily contested are heavily influenced by the aftermath of the Martial Law declared by Marcos. The provision about declaring Martial Law covers the fact that no president should be able to lawfully justify declaring Martial Law for the sake of military rule like the one done by Marcos. The other contested provision about Erap running for reelection prevented any president from serving more than his allotted term in office thus preventing another overextended rule like that of Marcos. Both provisions that are being debated upon right now are attempts to prevent another Marcos from rising in the country.
Then again, I believe that there are certain things that should be improved upon the 1987 Constitution. The Constitution is almost 23 years old (same age as me) and in those 23 years there have been a lot of changes in the country – changes that would need some flexibility in the laws. I know a lot are wary about ChaCha and many oppose it but I think they should stop and consider the benefits of the act. I am not promoting radical changes in the Constitution but I want to see some amendments that would reflect the changing times and the changing needs of the country.
I hope our lawmakers would seriously look into the issue of fixing up loopholes in the law that gives the country such confusion like with what is happening now. I hope that instead of passing up pitiful laws like the renaming of streets, etc. they would look at the more important ones. I certainly hope our lawmakers would be able to anticipate social issues that would need more stringent laws instead of waiting for some crime to happen before coming up with the idea that a law could have prevented that from happening. Take the case of the Hayden Kho sex scandals wherein they discovered there was no exact law where he could be implicated or the recent Maguindanao massacre wherein if there was a law banning private armies, then such monstrosity could have been avoided.
The elections are fast approaching and with it the chance to once again elect some of the country’s lawmakers. I hope, as citizens who care for the democracy our forefathers fought with their blood, we would do our chance in voting wisely for lawmakers who would do what they have been elected to do – constitute laws that would be of service to the country and not amass personal wealth that would be of service only to them and a few others.