President Rodrigo Duterte touches his head during his speech at the oath taking of officials of various national leagues at the Malacañang presidential palace in Manila.  He has vowed to suspend the Writ of Habeas Corpus in the Visayas if the Mindanao violence spills over in the region. Associated Press

Suspension of Writ of Habeas Corpus: Governor backs Duterte; militants alarmed
Kristine B. Quintas, Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon (The Freeman) - June 1, 2017 - 4:00pm

CEBU, Philippines - Cebu Governor Hilario Davide III, who heads the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC)-7, is supporting President Rodrigo Duterte’s plan to suspend the writ of habeas corpus in the Visayas, if the threat of terrorism extends beyond Mindanao.

“Depende sa president, if circumstances warrant the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.  If the president believes that makatabang ni maka-apprehend sa Maute group moari sa Visayas. That can apply. It’s the president’s call,” Davide said.

Militant groups, however, are wary about Duterte’s pronouncements, saying it would just pave the way to more abuses committed by those in authority.

Niño Olayvar, Vice President of Anakbayan-Visayas, said Duterte’s plan to suspend the writ of habeas corpus is alarming.

He said that in Mindanao, there are already warrantless arrest and cases of illegal detention outside Marawi City and such scenario is not farfetched to happen in the Visayas.

Justine Balane, Akbayan Youth Cebu organizer, said that the people should be more vigilant on the recent moves of the president.

Duterte, who spoke during the 119th founding anniversary of the Philippine Navy on Wednesday, said that he would suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the Visayas as a “precautionary measure,” if the violence spills into the Central Philippines, as fighting between security forces and Islamist fighters continues in Marawi City.

Concept of habeas corpus

A writ of habeas corpus, which literally means to “produce the body,” is an order to deliver an imprisoned individual to a court.

Lawyer Jose Glenn Capanas, Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)-Cebu City Chapter President, said the Supreme Court has jurisdiction over habeas corpus petitions.

Capanas explained that  the writ is a safeguard against warrantless arrests and illegal detention.

1987 Constitution

Article III Section 15 of the 1987 Constitution stipulates that “the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended except in cases of invasion or rebellion when the public safety requires it.”

In addition, Article 3, Section 13 states the right to bail shall remain even when the writ is suspended.

Capanas said only the president has the power to suspend the writ, under Article 7, Section 18.

The provision says "in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he (the president) may, for a period not exceeding sixty days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law."

It can be recalled that prior to the declaration of Martial Law, the late president Ferdinand Marcos had suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in 1971 through Proclamation No. 889 in response to the Plaza Miranda bombing.

Once the writ is suspended, Capanas said the IBP will help monitor the matter.

Cebu is safe

Meanwhile, Davide said Cebu is safe but urged the authorities and the public to remain vigilant in the wake of clashes between government forces and terrorists in Marawi City.

He said they are not discounting the possibility of Maute terrorists to flee to other areas in the Visayas, including Cebu, as the region could be reached easily by sea from Mindanao.

“That remains to be seen. But we assure that Cebu is safe. We just have to keep it that way. Martial law or no martial law, our paramount concern is the security of everybody here in the Visayas,” he said.

In yesterday’s RPOC-7 special meeting, Davide has directed authorities and local government units to strengthen security in all entry and exit points like ports.

“Our armed forces and PNP sige naman na sila og monitor to secure our coastal areas. If naay additional nga security forces the better, plus the support of our local government units,” he said.

Coastal areas monitored

Port Police Senior Superintendent Glenn Sarador, officer-in-charge of the port security, safety and environmental management department-CPA, said they will be meeting with the owners of private ports and LGU-managed ports next week.

CPA officials together with PNP and Philippine Coast Guard will also conduct an ocular inspection of the LGU and privately-owned ports.

“We are more concerned on the private ports because the CPA has no hand on the implementation of the security measures implemented in those ports and the LGU-managed ports. We will check how we could assist them in enhancing their respective security measures,” he said.

Sarador said private ports could be used as entry and exit points for terrorism and illegal operations.  (FREEMAN)

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