'Constitutional crisis' may 'force' martial law declaration: Panelo

Ivy Jean Vibar, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 10 2016 09:33 PM

If executive branch disobeys SC orders, it will be unconstitutional, says Chiz 

MANILA – As long as there is no "constitutional crisis," President Rodrigo Duterte will not be forced to declare martial law.

One example of a crisis, said Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador "Sal" Panelo on Wednesday afternoon, would be one branch "invading the territory of another branch," referring to the Supreme Court's (SC) supposed interference in executive matters.

"Neither the chief justice nor the president would want that," he said, because if martial law were declared, "we would all be losers."

However, as Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno did not anymore react to Duterte's apparent threat of martial law, Panelo said he thinks it could mean that the high court doesn't want relations between the 2 branches of government to worsen.

Panelo, however, emphasized that the president has every right to resort to martial law if matters of public safety require it, based on the Constitution. 

"Right now, the safety of the public is in danger," Panelo said, referring to the administration’s war on the illegal drug trade. "But I don't think the president will [declare martial law]. He is [just] reminding everyone…that the Constitution mandates him to protect and serve the people."

Article 7, Section 18 of the 1987 Constitution states that the president can place the country under martial rule for 60 days or less, to ensure public safety when there is a threat of lawless violence, invasion, or rebellion.

However, the Congress may either revoke or accept and extend this by a majority vote. The Supreme Court can also review the need for martial law if a citizen files a protest against the presidential declaration.


Members of the third branch of the country's triumvirate of power decried the president's threat not to implement Supreme Court orders. 

"The President may be joking because an order to disobey a legal order or a decision of the Supreme Court is against the Constitution," Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan said in a statement, encouraging all branches of government to work together to "coordinate efforts at modernizing the Philippine justice system" through a Joint Judicial, Executive, and Legislative Advisory and Consultative Council (JJELACC).

Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon, meanwhile, said he hopes there will be a "more rational debate" on the issue of martial rule, emphasizing the need for the president to work together with the Supreme Court and Congress to ensure the success of the war on drugs.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Panelo said the Palace has not yet heard of the JJELACC and so is not in a position to respond to proposals regarding it.

In an interview with media, Senator Joel Villanueva downplayed Duterte's sentiments against the high court, as he is just "passionate in bringing change."

"I think wala na tayo sa barbaric stage ng kasaysayan na yung mga ideas na ganun (declaration of martial law) ay naeentertain pa rin (I think we have moved on from the barbaric stage of history, when the idea of declaring martial law is still being entertained)," he said.

Senator Juan Edgardo Angara also he believes Duterte is merely using the idea of martial rule to fuel swift action against drugs and crime. 

"When you say we might have martial law in the Philippines, there are effects in the market; there are effects on investors' decisions. So I think, we should not overplay with what I think what was not meant seriously," he told media Wednesday afternoon.


Filipinos should not be surprised that Duterte is willing to go to drastic measures to ensure peace, Panelo said, because the president already said it before, during the campaign period. 

In voting for him, Panelo said, citizens have "already mandated him to do what he promised to do during the campaign."

"[He said] he would close Congress if Congress will not be cooperative [in helping him] raise the standard of living of Filipinos…if [they] insist on their current corruption level, he would close Congress," he said.

The president also said during his campaign that he would declare a "revolutionary government" if the agencies that respond to him fail.

According to Panelo, people should believe that Duterte will do as he says, based on his track record.

"If only all branches of the branch would cooperate, then he would not have to do anything drastic…if there is a constitutional crisis, if the SC will become the branch that will impede what the president is doing, he is the president who walks his talk. He doesn't even care to lose the presidency."

On Tuesday, Duterte hit the judiciary's involvement in what he deems to be issues that are the territory of the executive branch, after the the chief justice told the four judges named by the president as allegedly having ties to the illegal drug trade not to surrender to anyone from the executive branch. 

"Ikaw (Sereno) ang kingpin sa judiciary. Ako, presidente…if this continues, pigilan mo ako eh 'di sige. 'Pag nagwala na...or would you rather that I will declare martial law? (You are the kingpin in the judiciary. I'm the president…. If this continues, go on, stop me. Or would you rather I declare martial law?)" Duterte said, speaking before the Philippine Army's 4th Infantry Division in Camp Evangelista in Cagayan de Oro.