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Revolutionary war? Duterte told not to threaten Filipinos

PhilStar Global logo PhilStar Global 4/5/2019 Helen Flores
a group of people posing for the camera: Revolutionary war? Duterte told not to threaten Filipinos © Provided by Philstar Global Corporation Revolutionary war? Duterte told not to threaten Filipinos

MANILA, Philippines — A “revolutionary war”?

Vice President Leni Robredo said yesterday President Duterte should not threaten Filipinos with something unconstitutional just because of a tantrum.

She was referring to the President’s speech the other night in Palawan where he mentioned declaring a “revolutionary war” for the remainder of his term and the arrest of all dissenters after a senator questioned an order to review government contracts.

“I was surprised with the President’s (threat) to declare a revolutionary government because we are both lawyers and he knows that this is against the Constitution,” Robredo said in a speech in Bohol where she joined the campaign sortie of the opposition Otso Diretso.

“You cannot threaten the people with something unconstitutional just because you are having tantrums. I think it’s an irresponsible response because when we entered this job, the hardships are part of the mandate we swore to,” she said.

Senatorial candidates of Otso Diretso also slammed the President for threatening to declare a revolutionary government, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus and order the arrest of his critics.

Robredo is “ready” to take over the position of Duterte if he makes good his threat to set up a revolutionary government so he can easily arrest critics and political foes.

“I think all of those who run for vice president should be ready for the eventuality because it’s part of the mandate of the vice president,” Robredo said when asked to comment on a pronouncement by her former lawyer Romulo Macalintal that she automatically becomes president if Duterte declares a revolutionary government and designates himself its leader.

Macalintal is running for senator in the coming polls under Otso Diretso.

Under a revolutionary government led by Duterte, Robredo becomes the president of a duly constituted government, he said.

“He (Duterte) ceases to be president having divested himself of the presidency. Such act will pave the way for Vice President Leni Robredo to take over the vacant position of president and assume the functions and the Office of the President,” he said.

The revolutionary government envisioned by Duterte cannot be compared with the one led by former president Corazon Aquino because “his is just his own making or a one-man declaration of a revolutionary government or practically a mere knee-jerk reaction against his critics, while Aquino’s was the result of a people’s uprising where people came together and showed their power to take over an abusive and graft-laden government,” Macalintal added.

“Finally, there is no such thing as suspending the privilege of a writ of habeas corpus and declaring a revolutionary government as these are inconsistent acts,” he said.

“If President Duterte suspends such privilege, then he is still adhering to the provisions of our Constitution, which is inconsistent with his revolutionary government, which has no charter at all,” according to the veteran election lawyer.

Threat ineffective

Sen. Francis Pangilinan, president of the opposition Liberal Party, said critics will not be silenced by Duterte’s threats “but by his sterling performance in going after these (drug) syndicates.”

“Instead of threatening his critics with arrest, he should arrest the big-time drug lords and his Customs appointees who have repeatedly brought in tons of shabu worth billions of pesos,” Pangilinan said.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros called Duterte’s issuing such threats shameful. “In the middle of China’s massive, illegal and deep incursion into our territories and our very own workplaces, President Duterte would rather pick on his own people than confront the country’s real invader,” Hontiveros said.

“Those who should be arrested are not our countrymen and women but foreign encroachers who illegally occupy our territories, threaten our small fisherfolk, smuggle illegal drugs and rob our workers of their jobs,” she said.

Human rights lawyer Chel Diokno and former Quezon congressman Erin Tañada said the Chief Executive should not be too “onion-skinned.”

Diokno reminded Duterte that no one is above the law and warned that the declaration of a revolutionary government is a betrayal of the Constitution and the people.

“My advice to him is not to be onion-skinned and don’t be hot tempered. Just ‘chel’,” he said in jest, in an apparent play on his name and on the word “chill.”

Duterte’s outburst was prompted by Sen. Franklin Drilon’s calls for his administration to exercise caution when reviewing government contracts.

Diokno, along with other groups, recently raised concern about several onerous provisions in the government’s agreements with China for the Kaliwa Dam project, like high interest rates and a “waiver of sovereign immunity” clause.

“No one is above the law. So we are ready to face whatever it is he wants to do,” Diokno said.

Samira Gutoc, who is also running for senator under Otso Diretso, described the President’s recent pronouncements as dangerous.

“Mr. President, please do not make threatening a habit. Suspending the writ of habeas corpus and declaring a ‘revolutionary war’ are serious matters that you should not say irresponsibly,” the Mindanao peace advocate said. 

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said President Duterte’s plan to curtail criticism is a step toward dictatorship.

“Open and free discourse is a crucial facet of a democracy. It is a right guaranteed by the Constitution and guided by different laws,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said.

“In this case, criticisms, especially if warranted and viewed for public interest, should not be used as a justification to curtail other rights, lest we spiral into a dictatorship,” she added.

De Guia also urged the public to be vigilant against possible oppressions and abuse of power.

“Just the same, we remind the government to use the authority the people granted to them to protect rights and liberties rather than curtail them,” she added.

Shielding Paolo Duterte

For militant lawmakers, Duterte’s declaration was intended to deflect public attention from his son Paolo’s alleged involvement in illegal drugs and his administration’s “onerous” loans from China.

Duterte’s plan was “meant to divert attention from the glaringly disadvantageous and downright treasonous loan agreements with China,” Rep. Antonio Tinio of party-list Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) said.

“You can be sure that he has no intention of rescinding any of these loan agreements anytime soon,” he said.

Rep. Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna said Duterte’s newest rant against his detractors is a cover-up also for the questionable killing by policemen of 14 Negros Oriental farmers.

“His pique cannot be a basis for suspending the writ of habeas corpus and arresting all his critics,” he said.

Bayan Muna chairman Neri Colmenares said under the Constitution, the writ could be suspended only in case of “invasion or rebellion, and public safety requires” it.

“His threat is his way to deflect attention away from the very serious issues hounding his administration and leadership, namely his flawed policy on China and the failure of his drug war,” he said.

For labor group Federation of Free Workers (FFW), there is no ground for Duterte’s plan to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

“There is no actual or existing rebellion or invasion contemplated under Sec 18, Art VII of the Philippine Constitution that can be invoked to justify the suspension,” said FFW president Sonny Matula.

He said the Duterte administration should instead focus on other issues like the arrest of workers and farmers even if there’s no suspension of the writ.

“That there have been arrests of workers and farmers on trumped-up charges is more alarming,” he pointed out.

But the President might be “joking again, as will be explained by his spokespersons,” Matula added.

“But this is no laughing matter. Our human rights are being threatened. That’s the serious matter that we need to address,” he maintained. – With Paolo Romero, Sheila Crisostomo, Evelyn Macairan, Jess Diaz, Janvic Mateo

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