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Media pluralism and Free Expression

This was my concluding remarks in a legal assessment of media ownership  in the Philippines  that I wrote for a project by Verafiles with the Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) 

Formal legal and constitutional protections on free expression abound in contemporary Philippines. But these have largely been pursued along the lines of an individualistic stress on the Bill of Rights, framed as guarantees against state encroachments into individual spheres of freedom.

But this is really to be expected from a dominant discourse of liberal political and legal theorizing on rights as inhering only to individuals; this is not to disparage individual rights, which are important as they are.

The Philippine Supreme Court has acknowledged the Bill of Rights’ debt to the Enlightenment idea of reason as a mode of discovering the truth in its different facets. But more than that, it frames the Bill of Rights, where the constitutional protections against restraints on free speech and free expression are embodied as a hedge around the state, as it were. Perhaps, one of the most eloquent and explicit declaration about the purpose of the protections it accords to the citizen has been made by constitutional scholar Joaquin Bernas, S.J. who, in explaining the intent of the provisions found in the Bill of Rights of the 1987 Charter, said:

First, the general reflections. The protection of fundamental liberties in the essence of constitutional democracy. Protection against whom? Protection against the state. The Bill of Rights governs the relationship between the individual and the state. Its concern is not the relation between individuals, between a private individual and other individuals. What the Bill of Rights does is to declare some forbidden zones in the private sphere inaccessible to any power holder.[1] [italic ours]

But batting for media pluralism as a good state of affairs will not be helped by such a narrow frame of argumentation. This then will require a closer and creative reading of the Constitution and other legal sources, to be able to better account for why as a matter of state policy, a plurality of media sources in contemporary Philippine society would augur well for a vibrant public life.

There is, as the political philosopher Jonathan Chaplin remarks, borrowing from the legal philosopher Mary Ann Glendon, a missing dimension of “sociality” in much of liberal theorizing on institutional rights, which has been decidedly individualistic in orientation. “Because contemporary liberalism lacks an adequate notion of sociality,” says Chaplin, “liberal legal, constitutional, and political [theories] have proved unable to generate a convincing account of the reality and character of the legal rights of institutions”.[2]

As Chaplin argues, “[t]he empirical observation that many social institutions themselves do have positive legal rights is indisputable, yet liberal individualism seems unable to offer much beyond an implausible contractualist explanation of their origin and status”[3] Liberal theorists tend to construe the phenomenon of institutional rights as merely derived from the rights of associating individuals rather than as having some independent foundation and status not finally reducible to individual rights.

In practical terms, what this means is that the state ought to recognize the proper place of a plurality of institutions – in our case – of media institutions, in a democratic deliberation. Along that line, free expression as a right best flourishes with a legal framework where such a structural or an associational plurality is also promoted and pursued.

There are ample constitutional sources for safeguarding and ensuring media pluralism:

The Congress shall regulate or prohibit monopolies in commercial mass media when the public interest so requires. No combinations in restraint of trade or unfair competition therein shall be allowed. [CONST. art. XVI, sec. 11(1)]

 The State shall regulate or prohibit monopolies when the public interest so requires. No combinations in restraint of trade or unfair competition shall be allowed.” [CONST. art. XII, sec. 19]

 The State shall provide the policy environment for the full development of Filipino capability and the emergence of communication structures suitable to the needs and aspirations of the nation and the balanced flow of information into, out of, and across the country, in accordance with a policy that respects the freedom of speech and of the press[ CONST. art. XVI, Sec. 10]

 The Congress shall give highest priority to the enactment of measures that protect and enhance the right of all the people to human dignity, reduce social, economic, and political inequalities, and remove cultural inequities by equitably diffusing wealth and political power for the common good [CONST. art. XIII, Sec. 2]

These constitutional provisions hammer the important point about “structural pluralism” as a corrollary to “viewpoint pluralism”, that for individual freedoms to flourish, they as well require the flourishing of various supporting institutions.

It is now a given that the right to free expression and the right to information are two sides of the same coin. One is the corollary of the other. The theory is that a better, rational, discussion of public matters is best achieved when citizens have at their disposal information pertinent to the issues at hand. The quality of such public discussion is only as good as the pertinent information made available to citizen-discussants.

An early theory of American constitutional design, expressed in an oft-quoted concurring opinion of J. Brandeis –a master of legal aphorisms – holds that:

Those who won our independence believed that the final end of the State was to make men free to develop their faculties, and that, in its government, the deliberative forces should prevail over the arbitrary. They valued liberty both as an end, and as a means. They believed liberty to be the secret of happiness, and courage to be the secret of liberty. They believed that freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth; that, without free speech and assembly, discussion would be futile; that, with them, discussion affords ordinarily adequate protection against the dissemination of noxious doctrine; that the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people; that public discussion is a political duty, and that this should be a fundamental principle of…. government.

They recognized the risks to which all human institutions are subject. But they knew that order cannot be secured merely through fear of punishment for its infraction; that it is hazardous to discourage thought, hope and imagination; that fear breeds repression; that repression breeds hate; that hate menaces stable government; that the path of safety lies in the opportunity to discuss freely supposed grievances and proposed remedies, and that the fitting remedy for evil counsels is good ones. Believing in the power of reason as applied through public discussion, they eschewed silence coerced by law — the argument of force in its worst form. Recognizing the occasional tyrannies of governing majorities, they amended the Constitution so that free speech and assembly should be guaranteed.[4]

Explicit in the necessity of providing citizens “an opportunity to discuss freely supposed grievances and proposed remedies” so as to build that “path to safety” towards a stable society is the requisite means – free speech and assembly; implicit in the process is the need to broaden the opportunity for public discussion by assuring a wide variety of avenues for it.

The legal and jurisprudential support for individual rights to free expression and right to information is robust and well developed in Philippine experience. But viewed in Glendon’s – and Chaplin’s – sense of sociality, the right to free expression and the right to information are now to be understood in a broader sense; that is, that the individual exercise of such rights must be correlated with institutional or associational support.

It is important that the news media maintain credible internal checks against the encroachment by the crass business bottom-line into the editorial room. Having said that, these internal checks guaranteed by the strict separation between the advertising room and the newsroom should be matched by external checks against a situation where a single dominant player in the media market controls both access to news and the news content.

The former is a function of how media owners understand the grand traditions that make good journalism work the way it should. The latter is a function of how the government understands the idea that a proliferation of independent news media assures the polity of a vibrant public discourse crucial to a functioning democracy. This is a question of extreme urgency, given contemporary trends in politics here and abroad about widespread distrust towards mainstream media and the rise of social media is the principal source of information for many.

Social scientists have a name for it: triangulation. The more independent media outlets reporting about the same issue or event, the more confident we are that we are getting all possible angles to the news of the day. The implications of just one or two giant business interests gatekeeping what gets to be reported as news by various media outlets should give us pause.

Media companies are a-typical in the sense that while on the one hand, they are supposed to serve the public interest in some way, the model that has so far proved sustainable, if barely for most, is that of a profit-driven, business enterprise. Therein lies a seemingly irreconciliable dialectic. In Philippine experience at least, we have not seen much of a media enterprise that is not just one of many interests across different business sectors owned by the same business empire, family-owned or otherwise.

This all the more drives home the point about the necessity of the state itself stepping in by setting up an effective system of checks and balances against media monopolization. In any case, as the discussion has already shown, it is not just a legal duty but a constitutional one for the state. While we have benefitted greatly from the earnest cultivation of individual freedoms, we have however neglected that other set of constitutional protections against media concentration that also threatens the same freedoms, if in a more insidious way.

In much of theorizing on structural pluralism in relation to civil society, the plurality of non-state actors participating in public discourse is seen as a normative goal; it presents a buffer to state overreach, and primordially, a mediating layer between individuals and the state.

In another, though, relevant context – on the question of the regulation of political advertising, that is – J. Mendoza has written about the constitutional command against political inequalities that justifies government regulation and the deep principle he refers to rings through for our concern as well:

The notion that the government may restrict the speech of some in order to enhance the relative voice of others may be foreign to the American Constitution. It is not to the Philippine Constitution, being in fact an animating principle in the document. Indeed, Art. IX-C [Sec. 4] is not the only provision in the Constitution mandating political equality. Art. XIII, [Sec. 1] requires Congress to give the `highest’ priority to the enactment of measures designed to reduce political inequalities, while Art II, [Sec. 26] declares as a fundamental principle of our government ‘equal access to opportunities for public service.’ Access to public office will be denied to poor candidates if they cannot even have access to mass media in order to reach the electorate. What fortress principle trumps or overrides these provisions for political equality?[5]

A side remark: in the latest case of GMA v. Comelec, the Supreme Court has unfortunately made a counter-intuitive ruling that defeats the purpose for which the Fair Elections Act was passed in the first place; the ruling practically gives the moneyed candidates more room to wiggle and reverses Osmena in the result, even if it upholds its original intent. But perhaps, this situation only points to the fact that we need more than regulation of political advertising if we want wide-ranging electoral reforms: we have to look at the necessity of campaign finance and party system reforms, to begin with.

Media monopolization courts the danger of speech being shaped by and directed towards a dominating commercial interest.

In the language of jurisprudence, it is in the “substantial interest” of government to regulate media monopolization precisely for that reason.

Yet, as this study has shown, we face multiple challenges to establishing media pluralism.

To begin with, there are various structural issues that require our immediate attention.

First, there is the seemingly incoherent system of rules concerning the intersection of mass media and public utilities. Such incoherence has often resulted in lax or incompetent regulation.

Second, there is the lack of a dedicated media authority that specifically deals with monopolistic arrangements. What obtains is a system of several overlapping institutions that deal separately with franchise, standards and competition. What this means is that it is difficult to develop administrative competence with a deep appreciation and respect for media pluralism and freedom where the authority to regulate is widely dispersed. The current system also requires close coordination between and among regulatory agencies but this coordination depends to a large extent on a proactive and enlightened regulators.

Third, there is the ever-present specter of regulatory capture. Constitutional and legal requirements on ownership of public utilities and media outfits have been ostensibly rendered ineffective by half-hearted regulation. This regulatory failure has a direct effect on the form and shape of the Philippine media landscape.

Fourth, related to this is the lack of legal safeguards against conflicts of interest of regulators. Very little legislation has been made to address this “revolving door” – the quick transition of individuals from working as a public officer to a private employee, and vice versa.

In this situation, public officers often have to deal with the moral hazard of exercising discretion in a manner that may unduly benefit private companies with the expectation that they may eventually exploit such benefits as a potential hire in the future. Similarly, newly elected or appointed public officers from the private sector may unduly use insider information obtained in their prior employment to create unfair advantages for their industry or company.

To date, only the PCC’s enabling law has a meaningful set of qualifications required of its commissioners designed to avoid such situations of conflict. This calls for a wide-ranging legislative reform. 

Fifth, there is the issue of media ownership transparency. This exercise in legal assessment has also shown how current rules on corporate disclosure are inadequate to address the established phenomenon of corporate lawyering. Even anti-dummy legislation appears inadequate to address the problem, precisely because corporate layering requires active investigation beyond what is available on the face of corporate papers filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. At the same, as seen in the Gamboa ruling, regulatory agencies themselves appear to be remiss in their legal duty to enforce regulation. Transparency is important, given the strong tendency we see of interlocking ownerships of media businesses in the Philippines.

To close: the current hype given to the “convergence” of public utilities, mass media and new media promises to present a greater challenge to the cause of democratizing media, if we follow Tiglao’s pointed allegations about the vertical and horizontal reach of the Salim empire in the Philippines.

Winthrop Yu, the President of the Philippine chapter of the Internet Society, has shared with me in an online conversation a thought experiment – that is, posit a contest between two teams consisting of the existing “duopolies”, PLDT and Globe v. GMA and ABS-CBN. “If the barriers between media and telcos were lowered, which doupoly would prevail and eventually dominate the medium and the message?” he asks.

He said he would place his bet on PLDT and Globe. “Thus, the threat to democratic space.”

I think he is not in the wrong, if we consider that there are now probably more smartphones than television units in the country. If Internet penetration reaches more Filipinos in the next few years, such a “convergence” will rule the day.

[1]Sponsorship speech of Commissioner Bernas, Record of Constitutional Commission, Vol. 1, p. 674, July 17, 1987.

[2] Jonathan Chaplin, Towards a Social Pluralist Theory of Institutional Rights, (3) Ave Maria Law Review 147-149 (2005).

[3] Id. At 148.

[4] Whitney v. California 274 U.S. 357 (1927)

[5] 288 SCRA 472, 473 (1998). CONST. (1987)

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Filed under Free Expression, legal theory, Media Ownership, Principled Pluralism, Public Interest, Uncategorized

Doing long-haul diplomacy in Pinyin

Does the arbitral court’s discussion of kompetenz-kompetenz make sense?” W., a young female Chinese graduate student, softly asks me as we walk past Beijing’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs building under an afternoon drizzle recently.

Her question is at the heart of the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s (PCA) jurisdiction over the South China Sea case filed by the Philippines, despite China’s objection.
“It’s the arbitral court’s competence to rule on its own competence to hear the dispute,” I answer, with a nod to Kelsen’s theory that international law springs from a grundnorm (fundamental norm). She obviously knows. She’s politely raising doubts over the PCA’s voiding of the “nine-dash line” claim.

Following an international law conference in Beijing in mid-October, W. shows Herbert Loja—a Pinoy PhD student at the Hong Kong University—and me around the city’s tourist spots.

Many young people now study international law in droves after the court’s ruling, says W., a student at the China University of Political Science and Law. Are Filipinos her age similarly driven? I wonder.

Conversant with Mao and Marx, she is tall and lively, and speaks English with a slight British accent, acquired by “listening to BBC broadcasts.” If her studies are an indication, her generation of students knows Western modes of thinking in international law, and the imperialist roots of the current purportedly rules-based international legal regime.
Earlier, over a lunch of bowls of steaming noodles in a trendy basement restaurant on Wangfujing street, we discussed a new book on theories of international law by a noted European scholar.

At the Asian Society of International Law conference hosted by Renmin University where Herbert and I read papers, scholars pondered the global shifts that had taken place since 2016. State sovereignty is back with a vengeance, said Society president Harry Roque. With the American retreat deep into national anxieties, emergent powers have freer rein to pursue their own vision of international relations in a multipolar world.

Cynicism is rife. Former colonies oppose universal rules with new vigor, saying such were made to favor former colonizers. The old logic of international law as might is right resonates with countries that should know better, precisely because, once upon a time, they were at its receiving end. But it pays to remember, argued professor Shinya Murase, that it was newly decolonized states (the Philippines included) that pushed the United Nations for equal human rights protection.

The drizzle is now a downpour, as we reach the gates of the colossal 18-hectare National Museum of China. Nearly half the size of our Mall of Asia, it’s a stone’s throw away from Tiananmen Square, scene of a massacre in 1989, when Chinese army tanks crushed a prodemocracy student protest. The carnage is forgotten while the museum runs a permanent exhibit, “The Road of Rejuvenation,” on the Western powers’ humiliation of China and its desire for vindication.

A beneficiary of the dividends of China’s huge investments in higher education, W. hopes to become a diplomat. For now, she volunteers for a Chinese NGO working among Syrian refugees in Turkey, and plans to get an internship at The Hague next year.
Though many Chinese universities now rank among the world’s best, few Filipinos think of Beijing as an education mecca. But we need to thoughtfully argue our rightful place as a nation, in a language that the Chinese understand very well—theirs.

If language is a door to a culture’s deepest thoughts, imagine Filipino legal scholars discussing fluently in Pinyin with their Chinese counterparts the finer points of China’s own Hobbesian realpolitik toward other states! In fact, we need more young Filipino scholars from all possible fields studying in the best Chinese universities.

There, they may yet win respect from China’s future leaders for the unfinished struggle for self-determination of Asia’s first republic.

Earlier published at : https://opinion.inquirer.net/117175/doing-long-haul-diplomacy-in-pinyin#ixzz5XYCO8xCN

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Green on Gardner on Law and Morality

Leslie Green continues his critique of his Oxford colleague John Gardner on the relation between law and morality. Here he engages Gardner’s point about the “inescapability of morality” in relation to law — that law is judged by morality, if law isn’t in some way, a moral norm by itself, or a “near natural law.”

The discussion echoes but couldn’t quite identify, the multi-aspectual view, where “positive law” in fact functions in all aspects of reality — it has a moral, social, economic, aesthetic, lingual or historical sides, and so on.As Alan Cameron, who edited the first volume of HD’s Encyclopedia of the Science of Law, put it to me recently, the process of law forming “is not merely the positivisation of a jural norm. It also requires the positivisation of analytical, lingual, social, economic and possibly aesthetic norms. An individual law has it own ‘individuality’ structure – it is some “thing” jurally qualified but displays all the modal aspects (subjectively and objectively).”

Thus a contract is not merely a legal document, it also has a social dimension, or functions in the social realm, as it has a certain history and an economic value (as the sociologists of law have been trying to show).

It should be interesting to note that in HD’s modal scale, the ethical (moral) aspect comes after the legal aspect. Law is prior and foundational to, and anticipates, morality. So there is some correspondence between HD’s and Gardner’s notion of morality, as the former in fact says that the ethical aspect deepens the legal aspect in the process of disclosure.

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Void ab initio: A legal history

“He who has real power is also capable of determining concepts and words,” wrote Nazi constitutional theorist Carl Schmitt. “Caesar dominus est supra grammaticam (Caesar is also the lord of grammar).”

Schmitt is studied not as a grammar Nazi but for the import of his most famous words in the very first line of his “Political Theology” (1922): “Sovereign is he who decides on the exception.” A true sovereign wields unchecked power to name friends and enemies of the state.

Solicitor General Jose Calida may not have read Schmitt in law school, but his use of the Latin maxim void ab initio in Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV’s amnesty case is textbook Schmittian grammar. It is what the President says it is.

In 1941, the German Jewish émigré Ernst Fraenkel published in the United States his book, “The Dual State,” showing how the Nazis applied Schmitt’s ideas to seize control of German administrative and judicial bodies.

The legal scholar described two contrary features of Hitler’s government: There was the “normative state,” the formal constitutional norms for civil and political rights, and the “prerogative state,” with its arbitrary exercise of power. Fraenkel’s study shows the gradual surrender of the normative state to the prerogative state by German lawyers, legal scholars and judges after Hitler declared martial law on Feb. 28, 1933.

For one, German courts considered martial law a political act outside their jurisdiction. Schmitt argued that the grounds for martial rule in Article 48 of the Weimar constitution cannot limit the Führer’s own prerogatives. If the constitution provides but two grounds for martial law—rebellion or invasion—he may disregard it. Or he may hold that terrorists who lay siege to Berlin are committing rebellion, even if it means treating them as a political group, as long as he gets his martial law.

Hitler had argued that he is the societal order. Thus, he who opposes the president opposes law and justice. Yet many believed him. Every governmental action must align with the goals of National Socialism, a “religion without a god.”

In 1929, professor Carl Bilfinger wrote that international law is limited by reservations on national security. Schmitt agreed, saying the reservations are more important than the treaty. Both scholars would be fine with the Philippine withdrawal from the International Criminal Court as a sole executive prerogative.

There was only muted resistance to this system, like a lower court ruling that a composer is entitled to royalties for his music aired by radio stations, rejecting arguments that the stations — since they also aired Nazi propaganda — were exempt from royalty fees.
Otherwise, democratic institutions toed the line. Across Germany, the prerogative state reduced the rule of law to its arbitrary and irrational diktat.

Even civil servants were denied access by the courts to their own official records in disputes with their superiors (sounds familiar?). A 1935 decision of the Prussian Supreme Administrative Court abolished Article 129, Section 3 of the constitution guaranteeing the right, as it contradicted the Nazi “leadership principle.”

The Prussian Supreme Court also held that all religious activities must meet government regulations; if not, believers may be guilty of stoking “indirect Communist danger.”
In 1938, another court convicted a minister of breaching the peace for praying for prisoners held by the Nazis. Fraenkel noted how the highest court of Bavaria erased the fundamental principle of double jeopardy, punishing anew a man who had already served his sentence for “high treason.” The principle is merely procedural, it so held.

All eyes are now on the Makati City Regional Trial Court Branch 148, and the Supreme Court: Is ne bis in idem, as the principle is said in Latin, also void ab initio, as the President says?

By 1936, “the resistance of traditional law-enforcing bodies was weakened.” We all know what happened to German Jews — they lost their right to property, and their very own lives. For, by simply being born into a race not of their own choosing, they rendered their right to exist void ab initio.

This was first published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, October 3, 2018.

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Filed under Carl Schmitt, Ernst Fraenkel, Human Rights, Impunity, legal theory, martial law, Nazi War Crimes, political theology, Public Interest, Supreme Court

Dante as Proto-Kuyper?

In which Kantorowicz casts Dante as originator of a proto-sphere sovereignty idea that’s apparently non-Thomistic (though he worked within the same system).Also, analogical borrowing (concept-formation in the Dooyeweerd sense) from theologians by jurists to form a “political theology.”

 

 

So you see law coming to its own more and more.

 

 

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PSIL Call for Papers

The Philippine Society of International Law has just posted a Call for Papers for its first National Conference this September. The PSIL National Conference is a prelude to the 7th Biennial Conference of the Asian Society of International Law, which it will host in Manila next year.

The PSIL has a distinguished lineage, having been founded in 1961 by the late Justice Florentino Feliciano.

This is the first time in so many years that a conference dedicated to international law in this scale will be mounted hereabouts.

Check out the PSIL Call for Papers post here.

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Tentative thoughts on International Humanitarian Law, the Marawi Siege and Lagman v. Medialdea

1. IHL prohibits acts of terrorism on the part of parties to an armed conflict.

2. Parties to an armed conflict are those of sufficient organization and structure as to be able to recognize and observe the laws and rules of war.

3. This goes for both international armed conflicts, where  of course, the parties are states so the question of organization is evidently met  (Fourth Geneva Convention) and non-international armed conflicts ( Two Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions), where usually, the parties are non-state actors ranged against the state, or non-state actors fighting one another. The Geneva Conventions are part of Philippine law by way of the Constitution’s treaty clause (as we are parties to them) and by way of the incorporation clause, as they also form part of customary international law.

4. In IHL, terrorism is not defined but acts designed to spread terror among the civilian populace in an armed conflict are tagged as “acts of terror” that are illegal and criminal in nature. In other words, there is a distinction made in IHL between status and act. A group may have the status of a party to an armed conflict, whether non-international or international and yet may be prosecuted for war crimes for engaging in  acts of terror.

5. Generally, IHL is not applied to groups that are considered no more than terrorist in nature.  IHL does not apply to the latter, as in the first place, it rejects the rules and laws of war.To date, the ICRC does not consider ISIS/ISL as a rebel group or as a state  fighting a transnational war (despite its claim that it is waging a war to establish a Caliphate in Iraq and Syria). A briefing paper of  the ICRC puts it thus:

With respect to the phenomenon of armed groups that are perceived as having a global reach, such as al-Qaeda or the Islamic State group, the ICRC does not share the view that an armed conflict of global dimensions is, or has been, taking place. This would require, in the first place, the existence of a ‘unitary’ non-State party opposing one or more States. Based on available facts, there are not sufficient elements to consider the al-Qaeda ‘core’ and its associated groups in other parts of the world as one and the same party within the meaning of IHL. The same reasoning also applies, for the time being, to the Islamic State group and affiliated groups.

Indeed, the Wall Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice denies recognition to groups organizing a state that wantonly and openly violate IHL and IHRL.

6. In practice, terrorist groups are often prosecuted for common crimes under domestic law in various jurisdictions.

7. In fact, no other state in the world — not even any Islamic one –has recognized ISIS/ISL as a legitimate political group engaged in a non-international armed conflict or a war for national liberation. Yet admittedly, there is vigorous debate on the continuing relevance of the general rule just mentioned, given the many acts tantamount to war crimes being committed by ISIS and its affiliated groups around the world. It remains to be seen whether the status/act distinction can be extended such that terror groups may be prosecuted for war crimes under IHL but remain classified as terror groups. What ‘s at stake is nothing less than the viability of civilizational norms. Taking off from the ICRC paper, a relevant question is whether the ISIS affiliates in the Philippines such as the Abu Sayaff and the Maute Group have at least achieved such an organized status as being able to meet the threshold for waging a non-international armed conflict. It is worth noting that previous to Marawi, the government has treated these two groups as groups merely engaged in criminality.

8. However, in Lagman v. Medialdea, the Philippine Supreme Court elevated the ISIS-allied Maute group to a political group by agreeing with the Executive Department’s contention that they are a group that has launched a rebellion to establish an Islamic state in Marawi City. The question of course is whether this also means characterizing the rebellion as a non-international armed conflict. Associate Justice Leonen also pointed to this apparent incongruence in his dissent to the majority opinion with these two trenchant paragraphs:

Elevating the acts of a lawless criminal group which uses terrorism as tactic to the constitutional concept of rebellion acknowledges them as a political group. Rebellion is a political crime. We have acknowledged that if rebels are able to capture government, their rebellion, no matter how brutal, will be justified. Also, by acknowledging them as rebels, we elevate their inhuman barbarism as an “armed conflict of a non-international character” protected by International Humanitarian Law. We will be known worldwide as the only country that acknowledges them, not as criminals, but as rebels entitled to protection under international law.

9.  The next question is whether characterizing the siege of Marawi as an NIAC could mean the reverse; that is, also granting the Mautes legitimacy as a group with political aims.

(This is a slightly different version of a post I made on my Facebook account. Photo credit, Abante Tonite).

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