Cagayan de Oro City—President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday threatened to declare Martial Law if Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno interferes in his war against drugs.
Duterte warned that a constitutional crisis will happen should Sereno continue assailing his anti-narcotics efforts, including publicly naming more than 150 politicians, judges, soldiers and police allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade.
“Not just because you’re the Supreme Court, you can order me. I will not follow you,” Duterte said. “Do not create a constitutional issue [because] there will be,” Duterte said in a speech before troops at Camp Evangelista in Cagayan de Oro City.
“I will warn you: do not create a crisis because I will order everyone in executive department not to honor you,” he said.
On Monday, Sereno sent a four-page letter admonishing the President for naming seven judges who allegedly coddled drug lords, describing his exposé as “premature” and saying it could put the lives of the magistrates at risk.
Sereno also said she would caution the judges implicated by Duterte not to surrender to the police in the absence of an arrest warrant.
With all due respect, Mr. President, we were caught unprepared by the announcement. It would matter greatly to our sense of constitutional order, if we were given the chance to administer the appropriate preventive measures without the complications of a premature public announcement,” she added.
Duterte, however, said attempts to undermine his campaign against illegal drugs could provoke him into placing the country under Martial Law.
“Please do not provoke me, I am not a fool. If this continues, stop me. But would you rather I declare Martial Law?” Duterte said. “You are the kingpin in the judiciary. I am the President. I have work to do, unlike you. You do not see judges patrolling the streets or your sheriffs arresting [drug lords]. That’s the biggest problem that I inherited from the previous administration.”
“You know Chief Justice, there is a slaughter going on and mind you, you are appointed by the government there in your office as Chief Justice at a time that when the government is doing nothing,” he added.
Duterte also told the soldiers that if the situation comes to a crossroads, they will have to decide for themselves whether to follow the President or the Supreme Court.
If the time comes that we reach a crossroads, you decide because I will not follow [the Supreme Court]. So please, please, please, please do not create a confrontation. Do not create a constitutional war. We will all lose,”
Duterte, a former lawyer and prosecutor, said the judiciary should stop “projecting theories” amid the reality that drug-related crimes happen.
“To the Supreme Court–tell me, what is the fastest decision you make on criminal cases? It’s not strange to us to say that you can convict someone after 10 years. Now you’re asking for warrant of arrest for 600,000 Filipinos? What will you do? Let them stay there to resume their criminal activity?”
“Ma’am, let’s not fool each other and don’t force me the issue. I respect your comment, but it is rigmarole, isn’t it?”
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