Duterte’s Constitutional Confusion: The Love Volatile Affair with Constitutional Protections

President Duterte has announced that the Fake News Law before the Philippines Congress is doomed to fail.

The law was prompted by the explosion in fake news from all sides of politics in recent times in the Philippines.

Duterte and his Assistant Secretary for Presidential Communication, Mocha Uson, have been the source of recent outbreaks of misinformation including fabricated claims against rival Senator Trillianes, a staunch critic of Duterte.

This has taken centre stage on the national news wire in recent weeks.

His comments in the wake of the Senate hearing on the proliferation of fake news come as something of a surprise. Not because of his defence of freedom of expression, but due to his reliance on the constitution as the basis of his argument.

The Constitution! A document that is at the heart of the values a nation is built upon, and up until recently has been rubbished at every turn by Duterte.

As recently as June 2017, he was quoted with disdain for the constitution:

“Constitution na sige sila, daldal ng Constitution. (They keep on talking about the Constitution.) That’s nothing to me, actually.”

To further his point:

“That is the long and short of our duty. Wala na ‘yang papel, papel (I don’t care about those papers),” he said. “Do not give me that piece of paper. It doesn’t mean anything to me at all.”

Duterte has established a track record for unconstitutional announcements and actions including his frequent dismissal of due process (for the common man anyway), the threats to abolish the Commission of Human Rights – and the eventual defunding, then refunding of the body – and just this week the anti-ombudsman tirades now that he is the subject of their investigations.

So why the grand resurrection and reliance on the constitution?

This sudden strength of resolve to uphold the constitution was also evident in his defense of his unwillingness to sign a bank waiver to open up his accounts to scrutiny in response to allegations of hidden wealth.

“When I say, ‘I will not answer you because my answer might incriminate me,’ … do not find fault with me. If you want [something], don’t get it from my mouth. And you cannot draw an inference when I invoke a constitutional right,” he said.

Citing this document when it is either Duterte or his inner circle under threat certainly raises some eyebrows.

So which is it Mr Duterte? Is the Constitution a sacred document with guiding principals for how you should act as President, and the protections that you and all Filipinos are entitled to? Or does it belong in the trash can?

You cannot have it both ways.

In the words of Duterte himself “Justice for one, justice for all. Sauce for the gander, sauce for the goose.”

 

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