Philippines: ‘Habeas corpus plan part of calibrated response vs rebellion’

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is seen on an electronic board as he delivers his speech during the 80th anniversary of the National Bureau of Investigation on Monday, Nov. 14, 2016. AP Photo/Aaron Favila

MANILA, Philippines – Suspending the writ of habeas corpus is a “calibrated response” to the rebellion in Mindanao and the brazen disregard for the rule of law particularly by drug offenders, President Duterte said yesterday.

In remarks at the 80th anniversary of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Duterte said such drastic move would ensure the stability of the country and the economy.

He said he has begun laying down the groundwork for his possible suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, which his communications officials had described as a “mere idea.”

“If you are a president of a country that is rocked with rebellion, extremism and the flooding of drugs, sometimes it can be hell,” he said.

As a lawyer, Duterte said he is inclined to follow the rule of law, but as a leader who has to deal with a slow justice system, he has to choose between following the rule of law and endangering the welfare of the people.

“The problem is, there is no obedience of the law and sometimes the rule of law becomes a stupid proposition,” he added.

He said his frustration with the system has led him to consider resigning.

“And sometimes you really ponder whether it would be right just to resign and say that, just invent an ailment and say I’m suffering from this cancer and I’d like to take a rest,” 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****. That’s b*****,” he said.

As this developed, the head of the US State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) arrived in Manila on Sunday to discuss with officials the strengthening of American support for anti-crime initiatives.

Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield will also discuss US support for maritime security and for an effective, humane drug treatment in the Philippines.

The President declared a state of emergency due to lawless violence in September after the bomb attack in Davao City.

Last Friday, Duterte revealed he was thinking of suspending the writ of habeas corpus to allow warrantless arrests. He emphasized it would not be martial law.

In his speech yesterday, Duterte talked about the “terrorists in Jolo (who) conduct abductions almost everyday, bringing shame to the Philippines.”

He also cited the need for the country to “prepare” for the possible activities of terrorists from the Middle East, specifically those belonging to ISIS.

He also lamented that less developed countries like the Philippines are made to account more for human rights issues than the developed and wealthier nations.

“You know countries like the Philippines, you do what is right, it is wrong. You do what is wrong, it’s still wrong. And that is how I balance the governance. Whether to do wrong or to do right, to commit a wrong or do a wrong thing, to make it right,” the President said.

He said he is used to getting criticized for his bloody anti-drug campaign but that he would rather shrug if off as he has to stop the country from becoming a narco-state.

Job made easier

For Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director Ronald dela Rosa, the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus would make the job of law enforcers easier.

“It will provide enough deterrence to the drug violators,” Dela Rosa said as he appealed to the public to trust the police.

With a suspended writ of habeas corpus, drug lords or at least many of them would abandon their illegal business out of fear of being arrested anytime.

Sen. Manny Pacquiao said the people should trust President Duterte, as it is not in his character to abuse his power.

“To all Filipinos listening now, I ask you not to be afraid of President Duterte because he loves the people. He fights for the oppressed – that’s in his heart,” Pacquiao told reporters in Filipino.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said it would be too early at this point to discuss or debate about the President’s purported plan to suspend the writ of habeas corpus.

“Let’s talk about it if the President keeps his word, and then we can check if the declaration has enough basis,” Alvarez said in Filipino. “But at this time, it’s too early to speculate.”

The Davao del Norte congressman, an ally of Duterte and stalwart of the ruling PDP-Laban party, made the pronouncements yesterday on “News to Go” over GMA-7.

Alvarez declined to comment on chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo’s defense of Duterte’s plan, which the latter floated at a recent forum, apparently to rev up his current campaign against drugs.

Check and balance

Reps. Rodel Batocabe of party-list Ako Bicol and Jericho Jonas Nograles of PBA assured the public that Congress and the judiciary can provide the necessary check and balance in case Duterte pushes through with his plan.

Both administration lawmakers stressed there is no invasion or rebellion to justify the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, and that the administration is even talking peace with communists and Muslim rebels.

But members of the independent House minority bloc said a suspension of the writ of habeas corpus would “resurrect” the horrors of martial law.

With Delon Porcalla, Helen Flores, Ding Cervantes, Artemio Dumlao, Pia Lee-Brago, Jaime Laude


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