President threatens Martial Law as Sereno demands warrants of arrest
ESCALATING his rhetoric, President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to declare Martial Law as he lashed out at Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno for questioning his shame campaign against “narco-officials.”
Speaking to the military in Cagayan de Oro City on Tuesday, Duterte went into an outburst over Sereno’s letter that branded as “premature” his call on judges allegedly involved in illegal drugs to surrender.
Duterte chided Sereno for demanding that warrants of arrest be issued against the accused judges, arguing that it would take three to four months to secure warrants and that it would be impossible if this was also applied to the estimated 600,000 drug suspects.
He reminded the Chief Justice that as President he had the mandate to protect the people.
“You are the kingpin in the judiciary while I am an elected President,” he said.
“The judges of the court do not conduct patrols and court sheriffs don’t arrest criminals. Do not order me kay dili ko gago (I am not an imbecile).”
If Sereno insists, she risks a constitutional crisis as the Executive department will not follow all judicial orders, Duterte said.
“Would you rather I declare martial law?” the President asked.
Retired justice to conduct probe
Amid Sereno’s concerns over Duterte’s methods, the Supreme Court on Tuesday appointed a retired associate justice to investigate four of seven judges linked by the President to the illegal drug trade.
Former associate justice Roberto Abad was designated to investigate Judge Exequil Dagala of the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Dapa-Socorro, Surigao; Judge Adriano Savillo of Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 30 in Iloilo City; Judge Domingo Casiple of RTC Branch 7 in Kalibo, Aklan; and Judge Antonio Reyes of RTC Branch 61 in Baguio City, court spokesman Theodore Te said in a news conference.
The high court directed Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to submit complaint-affidavits against the four judges within seven days. The four judges in turn were directed to submit their answers within seven days upon receipt of copies of the documents to be submitted by Medialdea.
Abad, 72, was given 30 days to make a recommendation to the Supreme Court en banc upon receipt of the answers of the four judges.
The high court said the speech of President Duterte last Sunday was treated as complaint, because he accused judges of having links to illegal drug dealers and syndicates.
Abad, an appointee of former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, was associate justice from August 7, 2009 to May 22, 2014.
Duterte, in a speech last Sunday in Davao City, identified seven judges as having links to the drug trade. Of the seven, however, one is already dead, one was dismissed and another had retired.
Sereno told Duterte on Monday that Lorenda Mupas was dismissed in 2007 as MTC judge of Dasmariñas, Cavite for gross ignorance of the law and misconduct. Roberto Navidad, formerly of RTC Branch 32, in Calbayog City, Samar, died on January 14, 2008 at the age of 69.
Rene Gonzales, formerly of the MTC Branch 7 in Iloilo City, retired last June 20.
In Davao City earlier on Tuesday, Duterte vowed to “purge” the government of officials involved in illegal drugs, and said barangay (village) chairmen, prosecutors and more policemen will be next in his shame campaign.
“There will be a purge actually. Without declaring Martial law, I will cleanse this government … I will not allow under my watch, I will not allow the Philippine Republic to wilt just like a flower after a few days,” Duterte said in a news conference.
Duterte began his shame campaign on July 5 by accusing five police generals of protecting illegal drug syndicates. On August 1, the President gave a “shoot-on-sight” order against a Leyte town mayor and his son, an alleged drug dealer, which forced the local official to turn himself in at Camp Crame.
In the early hours of Sunday, Duterte read a list containing more than 150 names of mayors, congressmen, judges and uniformed personnel allegedly involved in illegal drugs. Interior and Local Government Secretary Ismael Sueno said Metro Manila mayors will also be next.
Thirty policemen and 27 mayors named by Duterte showed up at Camp Crame on Monday to deny the accusation.
On Tuesday, the President promised to make public a second list containing the names of more narco-officials.
“There are many barangay (village) captains, police, and many more prosecutors coming in the list,” Duterte said.
The President defended the list of narco-officials he read last Sunday as “well-grounded,” after it turned out that some people on the list had long been dead or dismissed from the government.
Duterte admitted his list was dated, but said it had basis.
“Well that’s the list, but that means historically that judge was involved … The military and police will not provide names of people whose reputation will be ruined,” the President said.
An opposition lawmaker backed Sereno and said Duterte’s list was “useless” without court charges filed.
Ifugao Rep. Teodoro Baguilat said Sereno’s statements were “very significant.”
“I think that list is just full of hot bravado if you won’t really prosecute them, if you won’t follow through with the charges to be filed against these politicians, these judges, and these police personnel,” he told reporters.
Baguilat also raised the question of who validated Duterte’s list of supposed drug protectors.
On another front in the anti-drug war, Malacañang on Tuesday responded to concerns raised by the US State Department over the rising number of drug-related killings.
The President is not pleased with the surge in extra-judicial killings of drug suspects, the Palace said.
“I think he is very concerned. In fact, he is bothered and troubled,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a news conference.
“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has repeatedly expressed that he does not condone extra-judicial killings … he has also admitted that certain individuals may have been salvaged,” he said.
The National Police Commission and Sueno have directed Philippine National Police chief Ronald de la Rosa to investigate the killings, he added.
Elizabeth Trudeau, a State Department spokeswoman, on Monday said: “We believe in rule of law. We believe in due process. We believe in respect for universal human rights.”
The death toll on the war against drugs has reached 915, with 557 suspects killed in police operations and 276 by unidentified assailants since Duterte won the election last May 10, based on a tally by ABS-CBN News.