MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte said he may be forced to declare a suspension of the writ of habeas corpus if lawlessness in Mindanao worsens.
In a speech at the launching of the Pilipinong May Puso Foundation in Davao City on Friday, Duterte said a rebellion in Mindanao is ongoing and, if it gets out of control, he would consider suspending the writ of habeas corpus so he can start "picking up" those responsible for the disorder.
"At kung magkalat itong still lawlessness, I might be forced to — ayaw ko, ayaw ko. Warning ko lang sa kanila 'yan, ayaw ko kasi hindi maganda. But if you force my hand into it, I will declare the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, not martial law. Wala akong balak sa pulitika. But I will kasi wala akong remedy," Duterte said.
(If the lawlessness spreads, I might be forced to — I don't want to, I don't want to. I'm just warning them, but I don't want to do it because it's not good. It's not political, but I will do it because I have no remedy for it.)
"I cannot issue an order without a valid . . . I have to build a case one by one."
Duterte's entire speech at the foundation's launch was posted by RTVMalacanang on its YouTube channel. The part where Duterte mentions suspending the writ of habeas corpus starts at 41:13.
The writ of habeas corpus grants a person the right to question in court any instance of unlawful detention.
Under the 1987 Constitution, the president may suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus only in cases of invasion or rebellion and when public safety requires it.
Duterte placed the country under a state of lawless violence in September, following the bombing of a night market in Davao.
The president added that suspending the writ will be necessary if he thinks he's "helpless" to protect the country.
"If you don’t give me a choice then you box me in a corner and I find myself helpless because we have . . . kaya nandiyan ‘yan eh. [That's why that provision is there.] Those are really provisions intended to protect the Republic of the Philippines," he said.
The president said he can go to jail after he deals with lawlessness in the country.
"I can be ordered by the Supreme Court, 'Stop it' but there are things that they cannot, and maybe, I will not, stop. Eh bahala sabihin ko na muna tapusin ko 'to, tapos I can go to jail. [I'll put a stop to the lawlessness first, then I can go to jail]," he said.
Duterte added: "File all the charges that you can think of. But this country, in my time, will not deteriorate any further."