‘Constitutional dictatorship’ eyed
Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - September 17, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Apart from the declaration of a state of emergency that empowers President Duterte to call in the military to quell lawlessness, presidential legal adviser Salvador Panelo is toying with the idea of giving the Chief Executive expanded powers under a “constitutional dictatorship.”

Such a dictatorship, Panelo explained, would give Duterte powers over both the executive and legislative branches to speed up reforms.

“What I am saying is, it’s constitutional. You revise the Constitution, give the powers to the President, (the) legislative and executive powers. So in a sense it’s like dictatorship because he has two powers but all of them are constitutional,” Panelo told ANC Thursday.

Under Article 7, Section 18 of the 1987 Constitution, the President may declare martial law in case of invasion or rebellion, when public safety requires it. And in case of invasion or rebellion, he may suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus for a period not exceeding 60 days.  

Within 48 hours of suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, the President is also mandated by law to submit a report to Congress in person or in writing.

Congress, voting jointly, by a vote of at least a majority of all its members in regular or special session, may revoke or suspend the proclamation.

Panelo said the reason he wanted to propose additional powers for the President is to allow him more leeway in pushing reforms in government.

“We need this power, we need that. So more often than not, there is no more excuse not to fail,” Panelo said.

Panelo dealt with the matter even as Duterte declared a state of emergency on the account of lawless violence nationwide after the Sept. 2 deadly blast in his hometown in Davao City where 15 people were killed while 70 others were injured.

Panelo explained that amending the Constitution to allow Duterte to have expanded powers may address clamor for additional authority invested in the president.

Knowing Duterte, Panelo is optimistic that he will not abuse the additional powers, knowing him to be “a man of integrity beyond corruption, who has a political will and he walks his talk.”

Panelo however was quick to douse fears that Duterte will be placing the country under martial law since the threat groups – except the Abu Sayyaf – remained under control.

In the same interview, Panelo criticized UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

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