Martial Law

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Martial law is the system of rules that takes effect when the military takes control of the normal administration of justice. Usually martial law reduces some of the personal rights ordinarily granted to the citizen, limits the length of the trial processes, and prescribes more severe penalties than ordinary law. In many states martial law prescribes the death penalty for certain crimes, even if ordinary law does not contain that crime or punishment in its system.

Originally martial law was imposed during wars or occupations to let the government control population more effectively in spite of heightened unrest. Nowadays it is most commonly used by authoritarian governments to enforce their rule, for example after coup d'état, when threatened by popular protests, or to crack down on the opposition. Martial law can also be declared in cases of major natural disasters, however most countries use a different legal construct like "state of emergency".

In many countries martial law imposes particular rules, one of which is curfew. Often, under this system, the administration of justice is left to a military tribunal, called a court-martial. The suspension of the writ of habeas corpus is likely to occur.

Martial Law in the Philippines

President Jose P. Laurel of the wartime Second Republic (puppet-government under Japan) placed the Philippines under martial law in 1944 through Proclamation No. 29, dated September 21. Martial law came into effect on September 22, 1944 at 9am. Proclamation No. 30 was issued the next day, declaring the existence of a state of war between the Philippines and the US and Great Britain. This took effect on September 23, 1944 at 10am.

The Philippines was under martial law again from 1972 to 1981 under the authoritarian rule of Ferdinand Marcos. Martial law was declared to suppress increasing civil strife and the threat of communist takeover following a series of bombings in Manila. The declaration of martial law was initially well-received by some segment of the people but became unpopular as excesses and human rights abuses by the military emerged. Torture was used in extracting information from their enemies. Proclamation No. 1081 (Proclaiming a State of Martial Law in the Philippines) was signed on September 21, 1972 and came into force on September 22 - interestingly enough exactly 28 years after President Jose P. Laurel's similar proclamations.

There were rumours that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was planning to impose martial law to put an end to military coup plotters and general civilian dissatisfaction and criticism of the legitimacy of her presidency due to dubious election results. Instead, however, a "State of National Emergency" was imposed to crush a coup plot and tackle protesters which lasted from February 24, 2006 until March 3 of the same year.

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