Thoughts on Pres. Duterte’s Martial Law

If I get a piso for every martial law post I read over social media platforms, I’m probably a millionaire right now. Everyone has an opinion about it, coming from both sides of the spectrum. But most are for it which you’d start thinking maybe martial law is a good thing. Well given the context of it’s declaration, it probably is to some extent. But have you heard about the Gaussian curve aka the bell curve? Taleb labeled it as the GIF because it’s limited, follows a normal distribution and failed to consider outliers. But I digress.

It can be said that a certain policy or law or act, in this case, martial law, will follow a normal distribution or a bell curve in that this act or policy or law (think of death penalty) will only be effective to a certain degree, at a certain level, and once it reached its peak, the costs (social, political, economic, human) starts to outweigh its benefits (security, peace and order, quashing rebellion?). You love it now. You support it now. You think it’s the right thing to do given the circumstances. You think it’s effective. You think non-Mindanaoan should shut up (because they have no right to question any of it). They don’t live in Mindanao anyway right? And you are probably proud of it. But once abuses start to surface, effectiveness starts to wane, fails to completely quell armed conflict and rebellion, life starts to get a little shitty as the day goes by, then you’ll be asking whether it was right to impose martial law in the first place. But, you will retort, you are absolutely sure and confident beyond measure (that you even villify those who oppose it) none of these martial law byproducts are going to happen. And i’m going to ask you this: Have you seen the future?

Remember that much like a war, this martial law is fluid in that it’s arbitrary and subject to the mood of the president, the situation on the ground, a single event, or a simple misunderstanding which could extend it beyond the timeline originally planned.

I hope we don’t get to the point where the debate of martial law imposition is already moot (because the situation created by this martial law is already worse and irreversible) and the cost is so great that we start asking Jesus or Allah to turn back the clock!

I don’t question the context of PDuterte’s declaration of martial law. It’s obviously a clear and present danger. But is it really necessary? If necessary, should the entire Mindanao be placed under martial law? The conflict area is only contained in Marawi. Marawi’s land area is only .009% of Mindanao’s total land area. Can’t the military isolate, nuetralize, and engage the enemies within the conflict zone? Yes they have symphatizers around ARMM regions but we already have formidable military presence in those areas. Do the president and military need additional teeth (martial law) to maintain peace and security throughout Mindanao when we already have more than enough resources to neutralize the enemies and sympathizers outside the conflict zone? Do all these perceived benefits of martial law far outweigh the short and even long term social, economic and even political costs? Are you ready to be paranoid? Have we not learned from the lessons of the past? Our children will be paying for our decisions today! I wouldn’t mind if martial law was limited to Marawi and neighboring towns. But entire Mindanao? Why? It send a terrible signal to everyone outside. Lenders are less likely to lend liberally. Businessmen will less likely secure financing. Investors will shun Mindanao in the short run and potentially in the long term. Remember SM Zamboanga? Yeah, they ditched plans for a full fledged mall in the short to mid term. And if businesses starts feeling the pinch? They will start firing people! They will start employing less and less to maintain margin or just breakeven or shut business down for good because it’s no longer feasible given the current business environment.

I hope this martial law will only last as long as it takes to neutralize the armed groups in Marawi. Otherwise, it’s reasonable to assume history will probably repeat itself.

You think (the effects) of this martial law is going to be very different from Marcos martial law? Maybe yes. Maybe no. How would you know? Can you see the future? Have you seen your own future? You seem to be so confident this martial law is going to end up being good for everyone? Everyone thought MNLF won’t invade Zamboanga City or Titanic was unsinkable (not even Jesus can sink this) or Clinton will beat Trump, or Moscow will not invade Georgia, or global warming is just a liberal policy makers’ wet dream until ice caps started melting years earlier , or the US real estate market was robust until it suddenly bombed out. No one really knows anything about the future.  Prediction and forecasting is a hit or miss affair and it involves 99% luck and confluence of different events. Not even the weatherman can confidently predict the weather next day so I suggest you stop, take a deep breath, and reassess your position about this martial law going to be different in a good way than the previous one because no one really knows. Not even glorified quants can formulate complex computer programs to guarantee an equities future performance. But I can confidently tell you this, the last time we had martial law about 70,000 people were imprisoned and 34,000 tortured, according to Amnesty International, while 3,240 were killed from 1972 to 1981. During this dark chapter of Philippine history, thousands of people were subject to various forms of torture. Prisoners were electrocuted, beaten up, and strangled. They were burned with a flat iron or cigars. Water was poured down their throats, then forced out by beating. Women were stripped naked and raped, various objects forced into their genitals. The Marcoses also plundered the country’s coffers, with various estimates putting the amount at between $5 billion to $10 billion (credits: @kaifrancisco). Will the PDuterte martial law human and economic tolls be comparable to Marcos martial law? Maybe not. Or maybe even worse. No one really knows. So it’s always, always better not play with fire or risk burning the entire place down.

So i’m hoping, and I’m sure everyone is hoping too, that this martial law is going to be short and swift and limited to Mindanao.


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