Martial law talk anew
President Duterte’s recent statements regarding his plans to shortcut the declaration of martial law was his way of courting controversy anew right after he justified the Marcos legacy by allowing the burial of the late strongman in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
And his latest announcement on martial law produced the expected flurry of adverse reactions notably coming from Vice President Leni Robredo, who had just resigned from his Cabinet with her own pronouncement against the return of the dictatorship in reference to her political rival, former senator Bongbong Marcos.
President Duterte’s threats and allusions to martial law also echoed during his tirade against Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno when she took a stand against his administration’s antidrug war.
The president’s wish for shortcuts to martial law declaration may be supported by his most zealous followers who will take to social media to justify his position, but we have reason to believe that even his staunchest supporters in Congress won’t take it sitting down.
Among those who won’t is Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III whose father, the former Senate president Aquilino Pimentel Jr., was jailed for opposing martial law during the Marcos regime.
In a recent gathering, President Duterte called for amendments to the provisions limiting the President’s authority to declare martial law by removing the requirement for legislative and judicial review.
Under the Constitution, the president is required to submit either in writing or in person a report on the enforcement and implementation of martial law in the country or any part thereof to Congress and the Supreme Court.
By doing away with this requirement, President Duterte said this would enable him or future presidents to act with dispatch in resolving the source of the problem and reason for the declaration of martial law, and with it the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus free from the interference of Congress and the High Tribunal.
In the President’s case, it was about his obsessive war on illegal drugs that ran into obstacles of which the latest is the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).
While his administration has made significant headway into this war, tearing down the constraints placed in the Constitution against the return to martial law rule will invite further aggression from future leaders, of which Duterte’s presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo cited as justification for the President’s proposal to amend and remove the requirements in the first place.
But with Congress at his beck and call and a Supreme Court which he would fill up with justices that are sympathetic to his causes, the President obviously need not resort to martial law to wage his war against illegal drugs.
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