Palace: This is not martial law

Giovanni Nilles (The Philippine Star) - September 4, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - A state of lawlessness is not martial law.

President Duterte’s chief legal counsel and his justice secretary made the clarification as the Chief Executive’s declaration – made in the aftermath of Friday’s Davao City terror attack – has sparked concerns the country is veering toward military rule.

Chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo said yesterday the state of lawlessness declared by President Duterte does not entail the suspension of any rights under the Constitution or set the stage for martial law.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said there is “clear and present danger to public safety” due to lawlessness but the President felt no need to declare martial law.

“It is not martial law. It is not a precursor to martial law or an indication that we’re heading towards it. It is not a suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and neither does it suspend rights,” Panelo said in a phone interview.

He cited four grounds used by the President in declaring a state of lawlessness – spate of killings in the past two months, rampant criminality, terrorism and the problem with the Abu Sayyaf, which has claimed responsibility for the Davao attack.

On his Facebook post, former Ateneo School of Government dean Antonio La Viña urged people to be vigilant and extraordinary powers should only be invoked as a last resort.

“The slippery slope of frequent recourse to an emergency rule is the ever-present possibility that such will slide into a permanent and unconstitutional regime (although), for now, Duterte’s declaration does not appear to lead us to that slope, but we must be vigilant,” he said.

Peace adviser Jesus Dureza, in a Viber message to Malacañang reporters, said the state of lawlessness “under the constitutional provision is separate and apart from the powers to declare martial law or suspend habeas corpus.”

“It merely calls out the military or the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) to do law enforcement operations normally done only by the PNP (Philippine National Police) precisely to suppress lawless violence. It is to complement and supplement the capability of the PNP. It does not suspend some rights,” Dureza said.

He added the declaration does not need a judicial review.

While under a state of lawlessness, Panelo said the country would have to bear with higher police visibility in many areas.

“There will be checkpoints and curfew maybe imposed to secure the safety of the public…it may inconvenience some people,” Panelo added as he urged Filipinos to be more vigilant and observant.

“As early as the first week of August we received threats to bomb some malls in Davao City and in Manila. Terrorism is to sow and create panic,” he said.

State solicitor Jayrous Villanueva said former president Joseph Estrada invoked the same tack to direct the AFP and PNP chiefs to coordinate with each other in the deployment of Marines for a temporary period in Metro Manila.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines, he added, questioned the validity of the order, which led the Supreme Court to rule in favor of the power of the president to declare a state of lawlessness.

In TV5’s InterAksyon, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers secretary general Edre Olalia called Duterte’s declaration a “legitimate tool” of the government “if applied prudently and resorted to temporarily while the danger being addressed exists concretely, and as long as there is accountability, then it is a legitimate tool of any government.”

‘Factual basis’

DOJ’s Aguirre said there is “factual basis” for the President’s declaration.

“The existence of a state of lawlessness has factual basis because of what happened now in Davao. There is a breakdown of law and order and clear and present danger to public safety,” he said.

He added the declaration merely serves as a “precautionary measure of the President as commander-in-chief to protect the people. The Armed Forces of the Philippines is constitutionally mandated to protect the people from lawlessness.”

The justice chief also pointed out the President would soon further explain the scope of the state of lawlessness.

“The exact nature and coverage and wordings will be specified in the declaration soon to be issued by President Duterte. The President is constitutionally sworn to defend the Constitution, to faithfully execute the laws,” he stressed. – With Evelyn Macairan


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