MANILA - Opposition lawmakers have criticized President Rodrigo Duterte's statement that he will ignore congressional and judicial review of his martial law declaration in Mindanao.
“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 they,” he said. “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 also said.
According to Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, lawmakers should ask Duterte what his true intentions are.
"We must start calling him out on his true intentions. He wants to do away with congressional oversight and judicial review. Para steady lang sa pagiging diktador. Why are they afraid of transparency? He's asking the soldiers to violate their oaths. To believe in him even as he violate his oath when he became president," he said in a statement.
"A joint congressional session to discuss validity of the martial law declaration and a Supreme Court review are constitutional guarantees to avoid possible abuses of martial law," he added.
Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin, for his part, said: "If President Duterte is testing the limits of his powers, citizens must also test limits of our powers to hold this administration accountable including Congress. We all need to be brave. Joint session ang nasa Constitution na dapat public and transparent. Sa executive session hindi malalaman ng publiko. Bakit ayaw nila malaman ng taumbayan?"
Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano believes that Duterte's statement is a "blatant and outright violation of the Constitution."
"He may be the President, but he is not above the Law. No one is. This just elucidates his intention of violating the Constitution which he has been repeatedly committing since assuming office," he said.
"Let me remind the President that though he has every intention to violate the Constitution, the AFP which is the main implemeter of martial law, has its mandate to uphold the Constitution and the Constitution alone. The AFP serves the people and the state and not the president," Alejano added.
BUHAY Partylist Rep. and Senior Deputy Minority Leader Lito Atienza urged President Rodrigo Duterte to adhere to the constitutional provisions on the declaration of martial law.
"It is very bothersome to hear the President announce that he will not listen to the Supreme Court and Congress as to when martial law in Mindanao will be lifted," he said.
"The declaration of martial law under the present Constitution has to be affirmed by Congress sitting as one, within 48 hours after the President declares such and the President has to justify his declaration before Congress either in person or in writing. The declaration of martial law in Mindanao is subject to review and is limited to 60 days unless extended by Congress. If he plans to extend it beyond 60 days, he should let Congress know about it," Atienza added.
“We were one of the first to express support for the President’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao since he is the only one in possession of the complete data and intelligence reports on exactly how serious this problem is. But we must emphasize adherence to the rule of law and the Constitutional provisions on this crucial issue. No President should ever be quoted as saying that he will not listen to Congress and the Supreme Court. This is provided for in the 1987 Constitution precisely to avoid a repeat of the abuses of the 1972 martial law.” Atienza added.
A Duterte ally, Ako Bicol Rep. Rodel Batocabe, defended the President.
"I think the president is merely referring solely to the Marawi conflict. What the president is emphasizing is the fact that we in Congress, and the Supreme Court have no competence and business telling him what to do and how to deal with the rebellion, which is purely a security matter. Of course, even us in Congress and the Supreme Court will have to rely on the military and our national security experts if we are to make a factual determination if there is a rebellion, warranting its imposition and even its extension," he said.
Kabayan Party-List Rep. Harry Roque, meanwhile, attempted to explain the President's remarks.
"Tingin ko naman ang sinasabi ni Presidente ay ang militar because they are on the ground they know the facts. Alam nila kung kinakailangan ba talaga ang martial law given the ongoing fighting. Tingin ko naman bagama't inaccurate yung sinabi ng Presidente na under no circumstance sya makikinig sa Kongreso ay Saligang Batas na ang nagsabi na hindi niya pwedeng isantabi ang revocation. Tama rin ang sinasabi niya na politicians and Supreme Court justices don't know what is happening on the ground," he said.
Roque insisted Duterte cannot ignore Congress.
"Depende kung ano ang sasabihin ng Kongreso. Kapag nirevoke ng Kongreso ang martial law hindi pwedeng isantabi ng Presidente yun," he added.
Roque claimed that the President was just exercising a bit of "political hyperbole".
"I have learned to distinguish hyperbole and exaggerations from being national policies. I refuse to believe that policies can contravene a Constitution. We have to construe his statement in accordance to the Constitution and I think his statement is limited to all other circumstances other than yung decision ng Kongreso to revoke it," he said.
Roque also said there are safeguards against dictatorships.
"Talaga namang ang Saligang Batas hindi magbibigay ng proteksyon kung hindi kinakailangan, sa akin kaya naman ang Saligang Batas ay mayroong safeguards laban sa diktaturya. Kasi sa kasaysayan natin kung walang safeguards magkakaroon ng diktaturya. Pero I doubt given the safeguards kung mangyayari pa ito not when Congress remains functioning, not when the courts remain open to the public," he said.
Davao del Norte 2nd District Rep. Antonio Floirendo Jr. also tried to rally support for the President.
"As a Mindanaoan, I believe that President Duterte's leadership is what is needed to bring peace and security in the region, his declaration is compliant with the requirements of the Constitution and his adoption of such constitutional remedy is the appropriate and effective response in crushing the rebellion staged by the Maute group in conspiracy with other terrorist groups that not only imperils the teritorial integrity of the republic in Mindanao but endangers the public safety of Minadanaons," he said.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez maintained that the House will review the President's declaration.
"Nagpatawag kami ng meeting sa Wednesday, kasama yata dito yung Executive Secretary, yung DILG secretary, 'yung DND atsaka yung ating Chief of Staff, saka ibang Gabinete pa, doon ito sa House of Representatives kung saan ay tatanungin sila ng mga miyembro ng Kamara. Hindi po today, kasi ang alam ko ang Senado yata ang nag-request na today, sila yung magpapatawag noong mga people from the executive branch," Alvarez told radio DZMM.
Alvarez said the leadership will decide if the meeting of the Committee of the Whole on Wednesday will be done in executive session.
He said the lower House will only put the matter to a vote if there will be a motion to revoke.
Alvarez said he accepts the Palace's justification for the declaration of martial law.
He added that any expansion of martial law will have to be covered by a separate declaration.
Malacañang, meanwhile, said Duterte would not defy the Supreme Court in case it rules against the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Duterte only issued such a statement because he believes the military and the police, and not the legislature or the judiciary, knew the real situation on the ground.
“The president meant that those who are really, truly aware of the situation are the military and the police. This is not meant to bypass the Supreme Court or the legislative,” Abella said in a press briefing in Malacañang.
Asked whether Duterte will respect an SC ruling against martial law, Abella said, “Of course he will respect, but that will be based on his own considerations being the commander-in-chief. He is not disrespecting the SC.”
“He will listen and there will have to be a proper dialogue between the president [and the SC]. They will have a conversation regarding that,” he added.