Senators urge public: Don't take Duterte’s martial law statement seriously


MANILA, Philippines – Some senators on Thursday urged the public not to take President Rodrigo Duterte's statement that he will declare martial law if Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno interferes in the war on drugs seriously.

”I don’t think people should be alarmed because when you say we might have martial law in the Philippines, there are effects in the market; there are effects on investors’ decisions. So I think, we should not overplay with what I think what was not meant seriously,” Sen. Juan Edgardo ‘Sonny’ Angara said in a media interview.

Angara said Malacañang already explained that Duterte was just asking a rhetorical question when the president mentioned martial law while reacting to Sereno’s letter to him in response to a list of government officials with supposed links to illegal drugs that Duterte disclosed last Sunday.

Sereno has chosen not to respond to the president's remarks.

”Sinasabi lang niya bilang isang executive, kailangan mabilis ang kilos para kapag hinadlangan siya ng ibang ahensya, siguro yun ang last resort niya. Pero hindi naman ako naniniwala na he will resort to it,” Angara said.

Senators say Duterte’s “shocking remarks” his style

Other senators also share the same sentiment.

Sen. Joel Villanueva said the emotional outburst is just part of the president's personality.

“Matagal na natin sigurong kilala ngayon ang ating pangulo, yung kanyang sentimyento, yung how emotional -- well, I would say, more of how passionate he is in bringing change,” Villanueva said in a released transcript of ambush interview.

“Ako, hindi ako naniniwala na ganun ka-seryoso ‘yun ‘yung the way he is projected na magdedeklara sya nu’n. I think wala na tayo sa barbaric stage ng kasaysayan na yung mga ideas na ganun ay nae-entertain pa rin,” he added.

On Wednesday, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo defended the president, claiming the extent of the country's supposed drug problem could justify the declaration of martial law. He said, however, that he doesn't think that Duterte would do so.

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, who ran as Duterte's vice presidential candidate in the May elections, likewise said the president’s remark is just part of his “style.”

Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto said Duterte’s statements may be shocking to many but it is part of his “stagecraft.”

“Makulay ang kanyang pananalita. May halong pangungutya. ‘Yung pang-aasar ay parte ng kanyang stagecraft. Hiwalay ito sa state policies he is pursuing,” Recto said in a released statement.

But Recto asked public officials to practice “finesse” and to be mindful of their language while communicating since, according to him, “words can move a nation, incite people, disturb peace and make political temperature rise."

He advised those who are outraged by Duterte’s statement that “the best coping mechanism is not to let his curses get in the way of studying the causes he is fighting for."

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said President Duterte’s martial law statement was just a threat.

”His bullheadedness is epic. By now we should be familiar with his antics. Na pagka nag-ano sa media, biglaan, may statements we should take seriously, may iba he should take lightly,” Lacson explained.

Lacson said the declaration of martial law is not a decision the president can make alone.

”It has concurrence already of Congress and it is time-bound, only 60 days. So, unless extreme, very compelling reason, no president will declare Martial law. It’s useless,” Lacson said.

”Masanay na lang tayo. Kasi di ba minsan may mga pronouncement siya, we should be able to read between the lines. 'Hindi lahat na sinasabi ko literal ang interpretation ninyo.' Meron siyang mga ganoon. Dapat kayo nakaka-observe niyan,” he advised the media.

Government shall unite for law and order

Senator Francis ‘Kiko’ Pangilinan agreed with Angara and Lacson, saying “the president may be joking because an order to disobey a legal order or a decision of the Supreme Court is against the Constitution.”

In light of the latest exchange of words between the president and Chief Justice Sereno, Pangilinan reiterated his call to convene the Joint Judicial, Executive, and Legislative Advisory and Consultative Council (JJELACC).

”Instead of this word war between the two branches of government and in response to the spate of extrajudicial killings, we should focus on working together to coordinate efforts at modernizing our judiciary and system of justice,” Pangilinan said.

”The Philippine justice system is antiquated and crying out for reforms. The current situation of extrajudicial killings is really an indictment of the justice system of our country -- slow and unresponsive up to a certain degree. That’s why we reiterate our call for the creation of JJELACC,” he added.

Recto urged everyone to unite in upholding the law and order.  He said disagreements among different branch of the government “ must be welcomed as a healthy feature of democracy.”

“Unnecessarily raising the specter of a constitutional crisis will not bring us closer to what we commonly want to achieve–to defeat crime and bring law and order. We can best serve the people by mutually strengthening the democratic institutions, and not by one branch threatening to subvert the other,” Recto said.

“When there is divergence of thought, we plod on. As both Batangueños and Bisayas would say: Kalma lang,” he said.

Meanwhile, Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon appealed to the government leaders “for more rational debate on the issue regarding the government's aggressive campaign against drugs.”

”Let us debate with facts and reasons. There is no argument that cannot be solved by rational debate. Let reason and civility govern the exchanges of opinions on issues,” Drilon added. —PNA/Jelly Musico with reports from Philstar.com/Rosette Adel

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