Duterte warns SC, Congress

President Duterte

MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte said Saturday he will ignore the Supreme Court and Congress as he enforces martial law across Mindanao, even though the Constitution gives them the power of oversight.

Duterte on Tuesday imposed martial law in Mindanao, home to 20-million people, following deadly clashes in a mostly Muslim-populated city involving militants he said were trying to establish a caliphate for the Islamic State group.

“Until the police and the Armed Forces say the Philippines is safe, this martial law will continue. I will not listen to others. The Supreme Court, Congress, they are not here,” Duterte told soldiers on Saturday.

“Are they the ones dying and losing blood, bleeding, hemorrhaging because there is no help, no reinforcement? It’s not them.” 

The 1987 Constitution imposes limits on martial law to prevent a repeat of the abuses carried out under the regime of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was deposed by the “People Power” revolution of 1986.

The Constitution requires Congress to approve a president’s declaration of martial law, and limits military rule for 60 days. If a president wants to extend it, he or she must again get congressional endorsement.

The Supreme Court can also rule on martial law’s legality.
“The Supreme Court will say they will examine into the factual [basis]. Why I don’t know. They are not soldiers. They do not know what is happening on the ground,” Duterte said Saturday in Jolo.

A day after declaring martial law, Duterte described the nine years of military rule under Marcos as “very good,” and said his would be similar. 

Duterte also told soldiers on Friday they would be allowed to conduct searches and arrests without warrants. 

“During martial law, your commanders, you, you can arrest any person, search any house. There is no more warrant needed,” Duterte told troops on Friday.

Duterte’s comments contradicted a government statement released on Saturday to explain martial law.

“Warrants of arrest or search warrants should be issued,” the statement from the government’s information agency said.
“No person may be arrested and detained without orders coming from these civil courts.”

Duterte has overwhelming support in Congress, which is this week widely expected to endorse his initial declaration of martial law.

However, Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, on Friday expressed concerns about martial law. 

A critic of Duterte, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said declaring martial law over the entire island of Mindanao was “overkill.”

In an interview on radio dzBB, Trillanes said ousted President Joseph Estrada declared an all-out-war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which wanted to create a separate Islamic state, but he did not declare martial law. But still, the Armed Forces overran 13 major camps, including Camp Abubakar, and 43 minor camps in just three months.

“So there is really no need to declare martial law in the entire Mindanao because according to the AFP, they are looking for only 100 [Maute Group members],” Trillanes said.

Also on Sunday, the Palace said it would appoint a civilian Maranao spokesperson to provide updates on the government’s ongoing offensive against the Maute terror group in Marawi City.

The Presidential Communications Operations Office said the move is part of its establishment of a “Mindanao Hour” Communications Center in Davao City, which will be a source of accurate and reliable information on the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.