MANILA – President Duterte knows his limits.
So said Presidential Communications Office chief Martin Andanar after the president drew criticisms for threatening to impose martial law in the Philippines in response to Chief Justice Martia Lourdes Sereno's letter airing concerns with the leader's move to name judges allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade.
Addressing fears of a second martial law in the Philippines, Andanar said Duterte ''merely asked a rhetorical question and said it under the context that his anti-drug campaign cannot wait for the slow wheels of justice – PH style."
''The President has made use of executive powers at his disposal, knowing fully well the limits of these powers, and without undermining the constitutional separation of powers nor infringing upon the rights of citizens,'' he added.
Critics said Duterte incendiary comments against the head of a co-equal branch of government could trigger a constitutional crisis.
In her letter to Duterte a day after the judges were named, Sereno told Duterte that the judiciary was ''caught unprepared'' by his move.
Sereno stressed that the judiciary has administrative supervision over all courts, and that by being linked to the drug trade, the 7 judges were put in a vulnerable position.
To assert its jurisdiction over the judges, the SC asked the Palace on Tuesday to submit within seven days complaints for administrative proceedings against four out of seven judges in the president’s list.
The high court decided to treat Duterte's speech over the weekend as basis for complaints against these judges.
In a separate statement, Andanar sought to downplay fears of a constitutional crisis.
''The President is a member of the bar who believes in the rule of law and advocates for judicial independence. As President, he has the sworn duty to uphold and defend the Constitution. The words and action of the President all point to these,'' he said.
Duterte's bold moves in his anti-crime campaign has triggered concerns among critics that the leader is willing to put less premium to human rights and employ extralegal means in his quest to rid the country of illegal drugs.