Philippines president meets soldiers
JOLO, Philippines: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has said he will ignore the Supreme Court and congress as he enforces martial law across the southern third of the country, even though the constitution gives them oversight. Duterte on Tuesday imposed martial law in the Mindanao region, home to 20 million people, following deadly clashes in a mostly Muslim-populated city involving militants whom he said were trying to establish a caliphate for the Islamic State group.
“Until the police and the armed forces say the Philippines is safe, this martial law will continue. I will not listen to others. The Supreme Court, congress, they are not here,” Duterte told soldiers on Saturday. “Are they the ones dying and losing blood, bleeding, hemorrhaging because there is no help, no reinforcement? It’s not them.”
The 1987 constitution imposes limits on martial law to prevent a repeat of the abuses under dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was deposed by a famous “People Power” revolution the previous year. The charter requires the president to submit a report to congress on why martial law has been declared. Congress can then revoke a president’s declaration of martial law, which is limited to 60 days. If a president decides to extend martial law, congress can again review and revoke.
But Duterte threatened to ignore the mechanisms in place for extension. “They say after 60 days I should go to congress: I don’t know,” he said. The Supreme Court can also rule on martial law’s legality if a case is filed before it, but Duterte said the judges would not understand the situation. “The Supreme Court will say they will examine into the factual (basis). Why, I don’t know. They are not soldiers. They do not know what is happening on the ground,” Duterte said Saturday on Jolo, a southern island that is under martial law.
A day after declaring martial law, Duterte described the nine years of military rule under Marcos as “very good” and said his would be similar. Duterte also told soldiers on Friday they would be allowed to conduct searches and arrests without warrants. “During martial law, your commanders, you, you can arrest any person, search any house. There is no more warrant needed,” he told troops. His comments contradicted a government statement released on Saturday to explain martial law. “Warrants of arrest or search warrants should be issued,” the statement from the government’s information agency said. “No person may be arrested and detained without orders coming from these civil courts.”
Duterte has overwhelming support in congress, which is this week widely expected to endorse his initial declaration of martial law. However the Supreme Court chief justice, Maria Lourdes Sereno, on Friday expressed concerns about the declaration. – AFP