MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday stressed he has no plans of becoming a dictator as he again defended his earlier threat to establish a revolutionary government in the event destabilization efforts plunge the country into chaos.
“[Iyung] sabi na diktador diktador, susmaryosep, ‘di ko ugali iyan,” Duterte said in a speech in Cagayan de Oro.
“I will serve during my time. Iyung sabihin mo na mag-ambisyon ako, it must be crazy.”
The President had earlier said he does not intend to stay in power beyond 2022, when his term as President expires, following his controversial declaration that he would set up a revolutionary government.
Duterte’s declaration has worried human rights groups and opposition figures, including Vice President Leni Robredo, who said such threats sow fear among Filipinos.
The opposition has many times denied mounting an ouster plot, asserting that dissent should not be taken as destabilization.
The President’s pronouncements also drew the ire of some lawmakers, particularly members of cause-oriented group Tindig Pilipinas.
The group blasted Duterte for his remarks, saying only a "paranoid and insecure little man" would feel the need to declare a revolutionary government.
Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano, among its prominent members, said Duterte’s plan to set up a revolutionary government is unconstitutional.
The President’s chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo, however, said the chief executive’s election win came with a mandate from voters to declare a revolutionary government when necessary, which is allowed under the Constitution.
"The electorate factored that in, and when he was voted overwhelmingly, the electorate gave him the overwhelming mandate to declare a revolutionary government if there is a need for that," Panelo said.
Asked which provision of the Constitution explicitly authorized the President to do this, Panelo cited the section stating that "the prime duty of the government is to serve and protect the people."
"There is a constitutional mandate for that," he said.
One of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, lawyer Christian Monsod, however, said setting up a revolutionary government would be akin to a dictatorship.
Monsod said Duterte will have to yield to political dynasties and warlords in order to hold on to power under a revolutionary government.
"When he talks about a government like that, that's a dictatorship," Monsod told ANC.
Last month, Duterte had warned that he would declare martial law nationwide if communist rebels, with whom government's talks have been put on hold, would stage a rebellion “where there’s fighting in the streets."
This would expand the standing martial rule in Mindanao, which Duterte had declared on May 23, amid clashes between state forces and terrorists in Mindanao, and later extended by Congress to December on his request.
Responding the the President's statements, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the possibility was "very remote" as communist forces have been significantly weakened.
Early in his term, Duterte had said he had no plans of becoming a dictator, saying his mother Soledad fought the Marcos dictatorship. This even while his father Vicente served in the pre-martial law cabinet of then President Ferdinand Marcos.
– with Christian Esguerra, ABS-CBN News