MANILA – The leaders of the two chambers of Congress on Monday said the reason for the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus must be justifiable, following President Rodrigo Duterte’s announcement that he might suspend the constitutional safeguard against unlawful arrest and detention to solve “lawlessness” in Mindanao.
Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, Duterte’s party mate, said he will bring up the matter with the president when they meet.
Pimentel, a Bar topnotcher, noted that there are only two instances under the Constitution when the President can suspend the writ of habeas corups - invasion and rebellion.
"May rebellion ba? I will not answer that muna," said Pimentel.
(Is there a rebellion? I will not answer that for now.)
Meanwhile, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, said it is within the president’s powers to suspend the writ if the situation warrants.
“The President is entitled to order such suspension in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of the Philippines,” Alvarez said in an interview.
“Ngayon nasa sa desisyon niya yan kung sa tingin niya ay kinakailangan na suspendihin ang writ of habeas corpus. Dapat pagpasyahan niya sapagkat Presidente lang ang puwedeng magpasya.”
(It is for him to decide whether to suspend the writ of habeas corpus. It is only him who has that power.)
Alvarez, however, said Congress will not think twice in reversing a possible suspension of the writ if it finds such to be baseless.
“Depende iyan, kung talaga namang kinakailangan, bakit hindi ilulusot? At kung hindi naman kailangan, talagang hindi lulusot iyan. As I’ve said before, hindi naman tayo rubber stamp ng Malacanang,” Alvarez said.
(That depends. If it is really necessary, why won’t it pass scrutiny? And if it is not needed, it will be revoked. As I’ve said before, we are not a rubber stamp of Malacañang.)
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."
The Constitution provides that “Congress, voting jointly, by a vote of at least a majority of all its Members in regular or special session, may revoke such proclamation or suspension” or extend such suspension beyond the 60 day limit if the situation warrants it.