Duterte threatens to arrest critics and declare a 'revolutionary war'

Christina Mendez, Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Duterte threatens to arrest critics and declare a 'revolutionary war'
Duterte met with the country’s top businessmen during a call at Malacañang Wednesday night, urging them to directly report to his office corruption issues involving the bureaucracy and other concerns.

MANILA, Philippines — Saying he has enough problems, President Duterte warned critics yesterday that he would suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, order their arrest and declare a “revolutionary war” until the end of his term.

It was the President’s reaction to Sen. Franklin Drilon’s call for the administration to exercise “extreme caution” in reviewing government deals, saying existing and binding contracts cannot simply be declared onerous and canceled.

Duterte met with the country’s top businessmen during a call at Malacañang Wednesday night, urging them to directly report to his office corruption issues involving the bureaucracy and other concerns.

In a speech yesterday in Palawan, Duterte said, “I have enough problems with criminality, drugs, rebellion and all, pero pag ako ang pinaabot ninyo nang sagad (if you go too far), I will declare a suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and I will arrest all of you.”

He said he would do this “if pushed against the wall,” but did not specify who would be arrested.

“Kasama kayo sa mga rebelde, mga kriminal, pati mga durugista. Then pahirapan mo ako (You will be at par with rebels, criminals and drug addicts. If you make it hard for me), I will declare a revolutionary war until the end of my term. Then pasensiyahan tayo (you have to bear with this),” he added.

“Why should I be careful in reviewing contracts that are not in the interest of the people?” Duterte said. “Son of a b****, how dare you say that to me, Mr. Drilon.”

In 2017, Duterte has also threatened to declare a revolutionary government if his opponents tried to oust him.

The closed-door meeting with the businessmen was held at Malacañang a few days after the President ordered the Office of the Solicitor General to review all government contracts with private groups to make sure that these contracts were not disadvantageous to the government.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said he came in late but heard the Chief Executive telling the heads of business conglomerates to call his attention personally if they become victims of red tape in government.

Duterte met with business leaders including Manuel Pangilinan, managing director and chief executive officer of Hong Kong-based First Pacific Co. Ltd.; Hans Sy of the SM Group; Robina Gokongwei-Pe, president of Robinsons Retail Holdings; Alice Eduardo, founder, president and CEO of Sta. Elena Construction and Development Corp.; and Christian Razon Gonzalez, senior vice president of the International Container Terminal Services Inc.

Davao-based trader Dennis Uy, founder of Udenna Corp., was also present at the meeting. Uy formed the Mislatel consortium, which bagged the franchise as the third telecommunications company, along with Chelsea and China Telecom.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, presidential adviser for entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion III and Panelo were also present during the “private meeting.”

Malacañang defended Duterte’s directive to review all government contracts after some groups questioned the timing of the order.

Militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said the review should have been done during the first year of his administration.

While Bayan described the order as “long overdue,” it also expressed suspicion that Duterte’s pronouncement may also be a means to divert attention away from issues like the allegedly anomalous deals with China. 

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon has also urged the administration to exercise “extreme caution” in reviewing all government deals, saying existing and binding contracts cannot simply be classified as onerous and cancelled. The power to review contracts must not be used to harass, the senator added. 

Panelo chided critics for questioning the President’s order and maintained that it was part of his duty to the people. 

“The problem with critics is it’s hard to understand them. If you did not do anything, they will mock you. If you do something, they will ask, ‘Why only now?’” Panelo said in Filipino over radio dzMM. 

“You cannot prevent the government from intervening. It can intervene in anything. As President, it is his duty not only to serve the country but to protect the interest of the public,” he added. 

Panelo said Duterte is “serious” about reviewing the government deals and has asked agencies to comply with his directive “immediately.” He said Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has formed a panel to review the contracts. 

Panelo said Duterte ordered the review upon learning that the government under then former president Fidel Ramos forged a deal with water concessionaire Maynilad that prohibited it from intruding into the contract terms.

He said the provision was the reason why the government lost an arbitration case and was ordered by a Singapore court to pay billions to Maynilad. 

The case stemmed from state-run Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System’s refusal to implement an upward tariff adjustment for the period of 2013 to 2017. The Singapore court ruled in favor of Maynilad and asked the government to pay the water concessionaire P3.42 billion in compensation. The ruling became final last year. 

“The ruling stated that it was the government’s fault because it intervened... The President became angry and said it was not acceptable,” Panelo said. 

Panelo previously said the ruling on the Maynilad deal is final and could no longer be rescinded but the administration can still prosecute officials who allowed the contract to proceed.

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