As much as we would like to believe there are more than two political parties in the United States, it is truthful to be aware of our bipartisan government. Democrats and Republicans are at the forefront of every election and often use mudslinging campaign tactics, highlighting the flaws of the other’s views and standpoints. Mirroring the volume of criticism regarding the previous Republican candidate, current President Donald Trump, there is much commentary and opinions concerning Rodrigo Duterte as well. He is the first Filipino President to hail from Mindanao, located at the southernmost point of the country, and he is infamous for his support of extrajudicial execution of criminals, most notably, drug users.
One of the most controversial decisions made by the Duterte Administration is the enactment of martial law in Mindanao. Per Merriam-Webster, martial law is defined as either, “the law applied in occupied territory by the military authority of the occupying power,” and or “the law administered by military forces that is invoked by a government in an emergency when the civilian law enforcement agencies are unable to maintain public order and safety”. While this may be the definition, martial law is limited per a series of court decisions made between the time of the American Civil War and World War Two. For example, the Posse Comitatus Act was passed by Congress in 1878 to prohibit military involvement with domestic law enforcement without congressional approval.
As of February 2018, per ABS CBN News, Mindanao remains in martial law. The decision was made after individuals from the Maute Group affiliated with ISIS, also known as the extremist group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, seized Marawi City. According to Duterte, the group invaded with the purpose of recruiting Muslims and attacking Christian families. With the casting of martial law, his intent was to prevent further infiltration.
A point made against the martial law vote would be the negative impact the decision would have on economic cost. Per the Straits Times, with martial law, there would be a decrease in tourism and increase in imported goods.
It was not only the Filipinos in Mindanao that felt its impact. According to the Asian Journal, there were Filipinos in the States who opposed Duterte’s decision to enact martial law for the fear of imposing a dictatorial reign similar to that of the Marcoses.
The Marcoses, Ferdinand and Imelda, are notorious for embezzling money from the Filipino government for their own personal gain. Former President Ferdinand Marcos also implemented martial law on September 21, 1972 in order to extend his term past the constitutional two-term limit. This was just one of the many self-serving acts he made during his tenure.
The Filipinos in support of Duterte dismiss the concerns of Filipinos abroad stating it is not their lives in danger and opposition to Duterte’s decisions only exacerbate the situation. “Kababayans,” translated as countrymen in English, approve of martial law. They believe this decision was made with their safety in mind, and there is a sense of protection felt from the law in effect.
As Duterte’s term goes on, the disputable actions by Duterte continue to cause contention between Filipinos and Filipino Americans. For those who greatly opposed Duterte’s election, this should act as a tocsin for those who did not participate in the voting process. For those who did vote and support Duterte and his methods, this should be further proof of the importance of making the effort to head to the polls.
The current political atmosphere of the Philippines should inspire Filipino Americans and their fellow American citizens alike to be involved with their government. Whether local or nationwide, all it takes is one voice to make a difference. Conversely, if the results are not in your favor, use it as incentive to organize rallies and protests to show support to marginalized groups in need. Those in power only hold power if their citizens hand it to them. It is our responsibility to be well-informed and educated when it comes to our electoral process.
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Keana A. Labra - Milpitas, CA
Utilizing her background in English Literature, Keana would like to learn more about Filipino literature and history to bring an understanding and awareness to the culture. As a Filipino American, she is interested in further researching the impact of the feminist movement and how it affects Filipino tradition. She would also like to uplift the Filipino Americans who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community. She hopes to encourage fellow Filipino Americans to participate and immerse themselves in the Filipino culture. Her hobbies include watching anime and reading manga.