The Duterte administration’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao increases political instability in the country, research group IBON said, and will not help the economy, which is already slowing as it is. While the 1987 Constitution provides for such a declaration, its indiscriminate use gives the impression of an authoritarian government arbitrarily using power for self-serving ends. According to IBON, this creates an economic environment hostile not just to workers, farmers and basic sectors but also to capital and legitimate businesses not aligned with the government.
Pres. Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law on Tuesday in Mindanao allegedly as a response to terrorist acts by the Maute group in Lanao del Sur especially in Marawi City. He later also threatened to impose martial law nationwide.
IBON noted that the declaration comes just days after the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) released its report of slowing economic growth in the first quarter of 2017. The PSA reported that the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) slowed to 6.4 percent in 2017, which is slower than 6.6 percent in the first quarter of 2016 and 6.9 percent in the same period in 2015. The PSA also earlier reported official unemployment increasing to 6.6 percent in January 2017 from 5.8 percent in the previous year.
The public outcry against the Duterte administration’s declaration is justifiable, IBON said. While the declaration of a state of martial law is only for a period not exceeding sixty days and while its implications are still not clear, the group said that the experience of economic decline under the long Marcos dictatorship remains fresh. The country’s last experience with nationwide martial law resulted in a wide range of anti-people neoliberal “free market” policies being forced on the Filipino people, world class bureaucratic corruption, and the unprecedented bloating of the country’s foreign debt and a severe financial burden on the economy, IBON recalled.
The conditions for these still remain, said the group, as the current administration’s economic team is intent on pressing further neoliberal “free market” policies despite their proven development failure. Among others these include an oppressive tax reform package that relieves the rich while burdening the poor and public-private partnership (PPP) deals that subsidize the profits of oligarchic private interests. Corruption and even pork barrel remains endemic in the government. The spectre of onerous loans from China for big-ticket infrastructure and other projects is also looming, said IBON.
The country’s experience with martial law has been clearly negative, said IBON. The Duterte administration’s unwarranted declaration of martial law, which is only the third since formal independence in 1946, is a step backward towards worsening elite and undemocratic rule in the country, concluded the group.