Friday, July 7, 2017

Justice Leonen's "Mindanao" dissent

History teaches us that to rely on the iron fist of an authoritarian backed up by the police and the military to solve our deep seated social problems that spawn terrorism is fallacy. The ghost of [Ferdinand] Marcos’ Martial Law lives within the words of our Constitution and rightly so. That ghost must be exorcised with passion by this Court whenever its resemblance reappears.

Never again should this court allow itself to step aside when the powerful invoke vague powers that feed on fear but could potentially undermine our most cherished rights. Never again should we fall victim to a false narrative that a vague declaration of martial law is good for us no matter the circumstances. We should have the courage to never again clothe authoritarianism in any disguise with the mantle of constitutionality.

The extremist views of religious fanatics will never take hold in our communities for so long as they enjoy the fundamental rights guaranteed by our constitution. There will be no radicals for so long as our government is open and tolerant of the activism of others who demand a more egalitarian, tolerant and socially just society.

We all need to fight the long war against terrorism. This needs patience, community participation, precision and a sophisticated strategy that respects rights while at the same time using force decisively at the right time and in the right way. The terrorist wins when we suspend all that we believe in. The terrorist wins when we replace social justice with disempowering authoritarianism.

We should temper our fears with reason. Otherwise, we succumb to the effects of the weapons of terror. We should dissent–even resist–when offered the farce that Martial Law is necessary because it is only an exclamation point.

Marvic M.V.F. Leonen, J., dissenting in Lagman v. Medialdea, the Mindanao Martial Law case, Supreme Court of the Philippines

1 comment:

  1. A friend has called the editor's attention to an earlier, powerful separate opinion by then Justice Perfecto of the Philippine Supreme Court, concurring in part, dissenting in part, in the famous case of
    Yamashita v. Stryker, 75 Phil. 563 (1945), cert. denied, 371 U.S. 1 (1946), and

    Like Justice Leonen, Justice Perfecto had a way with words:

    “The seriousness or unfathomable gravity of the charges against him, the unthinkable magnitude of the wholesale murders, rapes, and destructions for which he is called to answer, the beastly massacres and horrors by which he was thrown from the pedestal of military glory as the "Tiger of Malaya" into the bottom of perversity of a human monster, must not be taken into consideration, must all be forgotten, in order that true justice may be administered in this case.”

    * * * * *

    “We recognize no one to be above the law. Mere military might cannot change and nullify the course of justice. In the long run, everybody must have to bow and prostrate himself before the supreme majesty of the law.”

    * * * * *

    “The prosecution, trial, and conviction of Yamashita must impress all the peoples of the world that the principle of law is paramount, and supersedes and wipes out all other considerations in dealing with war or common criminals. Otherwise, their faith in the supremacy of law as the invulnerable bulwark of all fundamental human rights will be shaken, and the moral position of the victorious United Nations, the ethical value of the grandiose pronouncements of their great leaders, and the profound significance of the lofty ideals for which millions of their soldiers have fought and died, will be weakened and diminished to such an extent as to make barren all the tremendous sacrifices made by so many countries and so many peoples in the last global hecatomb.”


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