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Ramos fears ‘more harmful’ martial law under Duterte

HAUNTING MEMORIES. Former president Fidel V. Ramos, an 89-year-old former Marcos general, says that ‘we are all victims of martial law.’ Photo by Inoue Jaena/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Former president Fidel V. Ramos said on Friday, May 26, that he fears a "more harmful" martial law to come if President Rodrigo Duterte expands military rule to the entire Philippines.

In a press conference on Friday, Ramos cited complaints of extrajudicial killings or EJKs even without military rule in the country. He also said martial law can derail the country’s economy.

Ramos was answering a journalist who asked about his fears if Duterte "extends and even spreads out" the implementation of martial law.

Responding to this question, the former president dared the reporter to stay in his Makati City office for two weeks, and the former president would explain the martial law years under dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

A second cousin of Marcos, Ramos headed the Philippine Constabulary from 1972 to 1986, implementing martial law and having the dictator’s critics arrested. (READ: LOOK BACK: The Philippine Constabulary under Marcos)

Ramos eventually defected and prompted the series of events that led to the People Power uprising that ousted Marcos in 1986.

Ramos told the reporter on Thursday: "My answer to you is, you stay here for two weeks, and I will describe to you what happened during martial law. Because the martial law that is bound to happen could be more harmful."

Another journalist later asked Ramos why he thinks martial law to come could pose greater harm.

"Without martial law, you are already complaining in your newspapers and your agencies about the [EJK] killings," Ramos explained.

He said: "Our government must take strong measures without abusing human rights out there, to limit the violence, without any violation of human rights, ika nga nila. Let’s see. Tingnan natin kung mangyayari ‘yan. Dahil sa wala pang martial law eh katakot-takot na ang human rights violations." (Let’s see if that will happen. Because even without martial law, there are already so many human rights violations.)

‘We are all victims of martial law’

Ramos also mentioned the possible effects of martial law on the Philippine economy, including the Duterte administration’s grand "Build, Build, Build" infrastructure plan. He also comes from the context of a leader who is credited for economic growth during his term, though spoiled by the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

He said of martial law: "It’s more harmful now because we have the ‘Build, Build, Build,’ we have the easy loans from Russia, and then we have the promises of our rich people to support the government’s program, and we have a budget of P3.3 trillion* ($66.17 billion). All of that is in danger of not being done at all if this thing spreads throughout the country and for a longer time."

The former chief executive called the press conference after Duterte, whom he endorsed for president, declared martial law in the whole of Mindanao due to the threat of the terrorist group Islamic State (ISIS).

Duterte also said he is considering to expand martial law to the entire Philippines if the terror threats persist.

In Thursday’s press conference, Ramos began by saying he is "a little bit concerned" that "martial law – or worse, martial rule, which is different from martial law – may spread to the Visayas and nationwide."

He pointed out that Philippine leaders should work "to reduce the area of martial law and confine it to less than 60 days." In particular, he urged the government to restrict martial law to Lanao del Sur.

He pointed out that "we are all victims of martial law."

"We would be much higher now in the ranking of nations, in the appreciation of other nations about the Philippines, if we did not have martial law. As a military man, pagmasdan mo ang lalim ng sinasabi ko (notice the depth of what I am saying)," Ramos added.

The 89-year-old former Marcos general said in a stern voice, "Do not tell me that any of you will enjoy martial law." – Rappler.com

*$1 = P49.87