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Congress warns Du30

‘Writ suspension must have basis’

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte should justify before Congress the need to suspend the writ of habeas corpus, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said Monday.

“If he suspends the privilege, he has to justify it so let us leave [it to] him. Anyway, we are not yet there,” said Pimentel, Duterte’s party mate in PDP-Laban.

Pimentel said Duterte should write both chambers of Congress, which will then convene to discuss the President’s declaration.

PEACE AND FIST. President Rodrigo Duterte and former President Fidel Ramos display their respective fists in a tongue-and-cheek gesture after discussing what a senior official described as issues of climate change, peace process and foreign diplomatic engagements, only days after the latter criticized Duterte’s leadership as a ‘sinking ship.’ Radyo ng Bayan
“We can agree or disagree and when we agree, we can even extend [the period during which the suspension is in effect],”  he said. 

Alvarez assured the public that the House of Representatives would not give into the President’s suspension of the writ without basis.

“If it’s unnecessary, I do not think he will get his way,” Alvarez, secretary general of President Duterte’s party, the PDP-Laban, said.

Alvarez maintained that the House would never be a Palace rubber-stamp, and that lawmakers would decide on the matter once the President has actually declared the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.

Pimentel said there must be two conditions present in the event that Duterte suspends the writ of habeas corpus.

“Number one, is there an invasion or rebellion? If the answer is yes, does the public safety require... the suspension of the privilege of writ of habeas corpus? The answer should be yes to both questions,” he said.

The Constitution also requires that the President submit a report in person or in writing to Congress within 48 hours of the suspension.

Senator Panfilo Lacson added that the Constitution is very specific—invasion or rebellion must be present. He added that the drug menace as an issue of national security is not covered by the constitutional provision and therefore cannot be used to justify suspending the writ of habeas corpus.

Lacson said that if the writ is suspended, anyone can be arrested without a warrant, and be detained without following the reglementary period of 36 hours.

“Of course there’s a limit. It should not be more than 60 days. But within that 60-day period, so many things can happen,” Lacson said.

Duterte earlier warned that he might be forced to suspend the writ of habeas corpus if lawlessness in the country escalates, though he said he would not declare martial law.

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar later said the possibility of suspending the writ of habeas corpus was “just an idea that was floated” by the President.

But Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros warned that more abuses would be committed once the writ of habeas corpus is suspended. She said this would contribute to the growing climate of impunity brought about by the thousands of unresolved extrajudicial killings. 

“The government kept on saying that the country is safer now. However, the President’s plan to suspend the privilege of the writ negates this narrative. It only adds to the fear and anxiety of the public,” Hontiveros said. 

“The President must learn to trust our democratic processes. Proper law enforcement and standing behind the protection of human rights and observance of the rule of law  are the best methods to ensure public safety,” Hontiveros said.

Alvarez said that if the President orders the suspension of the writ, Congress will maintain its independence in assessing the need for such declaration.

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.

The Supreme Court may also review, in an appropriate proceeding filed by any citizen, the sufficiency of the factual basis of the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ.

Reps. Rodel Batocabe of Ako-Bicol party-list and Jericho Nograles of PBA party-list said the administration’s war on drugs may not be enough to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

At a news conference, Batocabe said the President was only testing the waters when he floated the possibility of the suspension to see how the people would react to it.

Batocabe expressed doubt the President would even suspend the writ beyond any one region in the country.

Similarly, “lawless violence does not constitute rebellion,” Batocabe said.

Nograles also said that at this point, there is no justifiable reason for Congress to approve a suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.

Also on Monday, the militant farmers group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas warned that suspending the writ of habeas corpus would only encourage state forces to violate human rights.

The KMP said the suspension of writ of habeas corpus will allow the state to arrest and jail anyone. 

At a speech Monday, Duterte said he favored a “calibrated response” against terrorism and rebellion, even if this meant forgoing human rights obligations to keep his people safe.

Speaking during the 80th anniversary of the National Bureau of Investigation, Duterte said the influx of extremists monitored in certain parts of Mindanao and the narcotics trade were posing great threats to the country. 

“We have a very strong rebellion in Mindanao, terrorists in Jolo, Sulu, kidnapping people almost everyday, [bringing] shame to our country. Every time they do it, they slap us, internationally,” he said.

“So we will have a calibrated thing here. I will not just sit down and allow my people to be slaughtered, for the sake of human rights. That’s b***s***.”

Duterte, who is waging a bloody war on drugs that has made global headlines due to alleged human rights abuses, said the rule of law can sometimes be a “stupid proposition” because of disobedience.

“The rule of law is good, if the rules are followed. Very easy to say rule of law. And it applies not only to the government and to us—it applies to all citizens,” he said.

Topics: President Rodrigo Duterte , Congress , Writ of habeas corpus , Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III , House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez
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