Duterte Sends Mixed Signals on Martial Law; Analysts Think Philippine President Position on the Issue is a Political Strategy

A few weeks ago, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines has openly expressed that the imposition of the Martial Law should be the prerogative of the President without asking the permission of Congress and the Supreme Court to make such imposition.

The imposition of Martial Law by the Philippine President now has a safeguard because it requires the approval of Congress and the Supreme Court as provided for in the 1987 Constitution.

Duterte said that if both had conflicting findings, there could be trouble. He said that only one person should be giving directions in a situation that required the declaration of Martial Law.

His political opposition, including the Vice President of the Philippines, Leni Robredo, felt that Duterte may be toying with the idea of imposing Martial Law, which was last imposed in the Philippines by the late dictator President Ferdinand Marcos from 1972 to 1981.

No need to declare Martial Law

On December 29, during a live interview with the local media, Duterte changed his tune on the issue when he said that he had no plans of placing the Philippines under martial rule.

He said that the imposition of Martial Law shall only lead to the downfall of the Philippines so he has no plans of declaring it ever, reports Inquirer.net.

The President said he would just tell the Filipino people if there was lawless violence and the steps he would take to stop it. He added he saw no need to punish people with such a declaration just because of criminality.

Duterte also said that he already told the Philippine military to develop loyalty not to him, but to the Constitution.

The Philippine President also said that declaring Martial Law is useless. He said that the military and the police are the two factors that can make or unmake a president, whether these two elements of the government believe in his cause or not.

He said that the only time that he would declare Martial Law is during a case of an invasion by a foreign country of the Philippines.

Time to revert to the 1935 Constitution

Just the same, he maintained his position that the constitutional provision on the declaration of Martial Law should be amended because the Supreme Court may not agree with Congress’ approval of the measure.

He explained that Congress is made up of politicians. Now, if he goes to Congress, they say, go ahead, another 60 days. Then the Supreme Court says the factual basis for Martial Law imposition does not exist. It’s pure fiction in the mind, so it is not lawful to declare Martial Law. So the President is left holding an empty bag, so to speak.

He said that it would be better if the situation would revert to the 1935 Constitution to make the declaration of Martial Law the sole prerogative of the President. It was the same Constitution where former President Ferdinand Marcos based his decision to declare Martial Law on September 21, 1972, notes ABS-CBN News.

As early as August, Duterte has been talking about declaring Martial Law as an option in light of his serious campaign against illegal drugs. He even asked Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to back off from his decision to publicly name judges allegedly involved in illegal drugs.

Sereno opposed the decision of the President to publicly name judges who are allegedly involved in illegal drugs because the intelligence reports have yet to be verified and validated.

Then in October, Duterte once again hinted at an idea to declare Martial Law because of the illegal drug trade in the country, during a meeting with the Jewish community at the Beit Yaacov Synagogue in Makati City.

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