PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte’s supposed martial law threat should not be taken seriously not only because of its outlandish nature but also of the lack of legal basis to declare such, Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto said Monday.
By now, the public should realize that such statements from the President are mere bluster, Recto said, recalling Duterte’s threat to ride a jet ski to the Kalayaan (Spratly) group of islands and feed the fish in Manila Bay with bodies of executed criminals.
“His bluster should be likened to a dog that always barks but seldom bites,” added Recto.
The President, in a speech before the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Saturday, criticized the constitutional restrictions on martial law and said that if he had his way, declaring such would be the President’s sole prerogative.
“I have to protect the Filipino people, and I tell you now, if I have to declare martial law, I will declare it,” Duterte
Section 18 Article VII of the 1987 Constitution states that the President “in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he may, for a period not exceeding sixty days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law.”
There is no basis to declare martial law because there is no rebellion and no foreign army threatening to invade the country, Recto said.
The President has also been bragging that crime is down and people are safe in their homes and communities, he said.
The President’s top congressional allies also downplayed the martial law talk.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd, in a text message, said people should not be worried that Duterte would declare martial law, saying the President won’t make such move without consultations.
During the process, the President will be reminded of the constitutional provisions on martial law, Pimentel said.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said: “I said it before and I’ll say it again: I know him personally and I sincerely believe he will not declare martial law.”
“It is far-fetched for him to declare martial law because the administration is clearly gaining headway in its war against illegal drugs in the country,” he said.
“Besides, being a lawyer, President Duterte is well aware of the legal requirements as well as limitations regarding the declaration of martial law. That is why I believe all the apprehension about the prospect of declaration of martial law is largely unfounded,” he added.
Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon called on the administration to exercise prudence in making public statements, and defended the media who was accused of misreporting Duterte’s remarks by the President’s communications group.
“The reports were based on the President’s speech and the statements were quoted verbatim. We should not blame the press for reporting what the President said,” said Drilon, a leader of the erstwhile ruling Liberal Party (LP).
Clarification from the Palace would have been unnecessary if prudence was exercised in the first place, he said.
Another LP senator, Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th, reminded the Duterte administration of the recent survey conducted by Pulse Asia showing that 74 percent of Filipinos were opposed to martial law.
“The image of this administration, with a strong and iron hand, very fierce, very harsh, it leads to thoughts of martial law and authoritarianism,” he said.
For Senator Antonio Trillanes 4th, a member of the Senate minority bloc, the statements of the President on martial was a sign for all Filipinos to prepare for another dictator.
“All freedom-loving Filipinos should start preparing to fight another dictator,” said Trillanes, a staunch critic of Duterte.
He also called on the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to begin reviewing their constitutional mandate.
But Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr., AFP spokesman, said the military won’t recommend martial rule.
“We are not recommending any kind of military martial rule, if you may call it that. [Because] right now we’re able to operate and catch all the people who have been perpetrating violence and we are operating within the bounds of law, so currently we are able to accomplish our mission without the complexity of needing to have any kind of special rule applied,” he said.
WITH FERNAN MARASIGAN AND LLANESCA T. PANTI