Palace allays concerns over Duterte talk of writ of habeas corpus suspension
“JUST an idea that was floated,” Malacañang said as it allayed yesterday fears regarding President Rodrigo Duterte’s warning of lifting the writ of habeas corpus to address what he described as the enormous and worsening drug problem as well as the rebellion in Mindanao.
Presidential Communications Office Secretary Martin Andanar said the possibility of suspending the writ of habeas corpus was “just an idea that was floated” by the President.
“His mention about the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, I believe, is pertaining to our problem on illegal drugs,” Andanar said in his regular press briefing with Palace reporters.
“The problem on illegal drugs has really become severe and widespread… The President is so worried already that’s why he has asked for the help of everybody several times because he cannot solve it on his own,”Andanar said.
He also disputed claims that the government failed to arrest the worsening drug problem within the first six months of the Duterte administration as the President himself had promised repeatedly.
“This only means that the President discovered only now that the drug problem was this big. It’s that simple. It’s just calling a spade a spade,” said Andanar, stressing that it is “not an overnight campaign”
“It’s not a campaign that can be done in just six months and the President has already mentioned that. The President has already asked for an extension in the campaign against illegal drugs. It’s not that easy.”
Not martial law
Speaking at an event in Davao City on Friday night, Duterte said he might temporarily lift the writ of habeas corpus if the “lawlessness” in the country worsened.
“If lawlessness becomes widespread, I might be forced to… It’s just my warning to them. I don’t want it because it’s not good,” the President said at the launching of the Pilipinong May Puso Foundation Inc. in Davao City.
“But if you force my hand into it, I will declare the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, not martial law. I have no political plans,” he said
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.
Duterte’s entire speech at the foundation’s launch was posted by RTVMalacañang on its YouTube channel. The part where Duterte mentions suspending the writ of habeas corpus starts at 41:13.
The writ of habeas corpus grants a person the right to question in court any instance of unlawful detention.
Duterte clarified he does not intend to declare martial law, saying he only wants to suspend the writ of habeas corpus to “pick up” lawless elements in Mindanao.
Under the 1987 Constitution, the President may suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus only in cases of invasion or rebellion and when public safety requires it.
Duterte placed the country under a state of lawless violence in September, following the bombing of a night market in Davao.
The President added that suspending the writ will be necessary if he thinks he’s “helpless” to protect the country.
“If you don’t give me a choice then you box me in a corner and I find myself helpless because we have... Kaya nandiyan ‘yan eh. (That’s why that provision is there.) Those are really provisions intended to protect the Republic of the Philippines,” he said.
The President said he can go to jail after he deals with lawlessness in the country.
“I can be ordered by the Supreme Court, ‘Stop it’ but there are things that they cannot, and maybe, I will not, stop. Eh, bahala sabihin ko na muna tapusin ko ‘to, tapos I can go to jail. (I’ll put a stop to the lawlessness first, then I can go to jail),” he said.
Duterte added: “File all the charges that you can think of. But this country, in my time, will not deteriorate any further.”
For his part, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said the President could just be trying to scare off lawless elements in Mindanao and has no intention of actually suspending the writ of habeas corpus.
“Nananakot siguro siya, ganyan naman talaga si presidente... Upang tingnan ng tao na kinakailangan mag-resolve sila. That’s how the president works, ‘yang mga hyperbole -- ‘yang mga pinalalaki ng Presidente ang kanyang mga gagawin -- (pero) wala naman siyang balak d’yan,” Aguirre said .
The country is still under a state of lawless violence declared by Duterte in September, following the deadly night market bombing in Davao City that claimed 15 lives and injured more than 60 others.