Duterte amend constitution and give president sole power to declare martial law

Philippines Duterte US

President Rodrigo Duterte also wants to amend in the Constitution another ‘reckless reaction’ to the Marcos regime – the term limits on local officials

President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday, December 22, said he wants the Constitution amended to make it less difficult for any president to declare martial law, saying the current safeguards were mere “reckless reaction” to what Filipinos experienced during Martial Law.

He also said there is a need to review the current term limit on local officials, where a maximum of 3 consecutive 3-year terms is allowed.

Article VII, Section 11, Paragraph 2 of the 1935 Constitution states: “The President shall be commander-in-chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and, whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion, insurrection, or rebellion, or imminent danger thereof, when the public safety requires it, he may suspend the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus, or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law.”

But Section 18 of the same article of the 1987 Constitution replaced the martial law provision of the 1935 Constitution. It states that martial law may be declared by the president only in case of invasion or rebellion for a period of only 60 days.

The President is also required to submit a report to the Congress within 48 hours after the proclamation of martial law or suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives would then vote jointly to revoke the proclamation or extend its effectivity if the invasion or rebellion persists and public safety requires it.

The Supreme Court has the power to review the martial law declaration or suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus if any citizen questioned the sufficiency of the factual basis for the proclamation or suspension of the privilege of the writ and promulgate a decision within 30 days.

Flirting with martial law

“Kung mag-declare ako ng martial law at may invasion ngayon o giyera, I cannot proceed on and on, lalo na kung may gulo. Pupunta pa ako sa Congress, pupunta pa ako doon sa Supreme Court, if there is anybody who’d file a complaint to look into the factual, kung totoo ba, which you could not do,” Duterte said in a speech in Angeles City.

(If I declare martial law and there’s an invasion now or a war, I cannot proceed on and on, especially if there’s chaos. I’ll have to go to Congress, I’ll have to go to the Supreme Court, if there is anybody who’d file a complaint to look into the factual, if it’s true, which you could not do.)

“Eh kung iba ang Supreme Court, magsabi ang Congress yes, no ito, or no ito, yes itong isa? Saan mo ako ilagay? Kaya kailangan ko talagang palitan ‘yan,” Duterte said in a speech before community drug watch volunteers. (What if the Supreme Court says something else, Congress says yes, the other says no or the other says no and the other says yes? Where do I position myself? So I need to change that.)

The President, however, added: “There is a safety measure there. I’ll just tell you later.”

Duterte has flirted with the idea of declaring martial law in the past. In an October speech, he said the extent of the country’s drug problem has tempted him to declare martial law.

He has also said that if “forced,” he could suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus if lawlessness, particularly because of the illegal drug trade, persists.

In the past, Duterte had conceded that martial law under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos did not improve Filipinos’ lives. But in his Thursday speech, Duterte pointed out that the provisions in laws then that allowed Marcos to declare martial law unilaterally was not his fault.

“But because nangyari sa atin, ‘yun… lahat ng ginawa ni Marcos, although, it was not Marcos’ Consitution, sinira, sinira. Pati ‘yung martial law powers ng presidente,” he said.

(But because of what happened to us, all that Marcos did… although it was not Marcos’ Constitution… it was ruined, ruined. Even the martial law powers of the president.)

Read more from: Rappler