#AnimatED: Democracy watch in 2017
In December, President Rodrigo Duterte set alarm bells ringing when he said he wanted the Constitution amended so that a president should be able to declare martial law without the approval of Congress and review by the Supreme Court.
What more, he called the martial law provision in the 1987 Constitution a “reckless reaction” to the Marcos regime.
But that was the entire point. To avoid a repeat of our descent into authoritarian rule, which has deeply scarred the nation, the framers of the Constitution injected safeguards.
While Section 18, Article VII, says that the president, as commander-in-chief, may “in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it,” suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the entire country, or parts of it, under martial law, Congress can revoke it, if they see fit. And the Supreme Court can review it should a case be filed with them.
Even before Duterte ran for president, he was already enamored with martial law. In January 2014, he said he was “frustrated by the slow wheels of justice in the country,” and added that he would only agree to become president of the country “if people will allow him to declare martial law to address the crime situation.”
This is the first time, though, that he openly advocated revising the Constitution to make it convenient for one man to put the country under martial law.
This year, Duterte is expected to appoint 25 men and women to sit in a committee that will propose changes in the Constitution. The consultative body has 6 months to finish its work, after which Congress deliberates on the proposed amendments.
Will the President’s appointees and Congress heed his martial law wish?
This is not the only warning sign that Duterte is endangering our democracy. In his first 6 months in office, he has flouted the rule of law and encouraged impunity in his war on drugs.
He weakens institutions, treating them like his little minions.
- He is making the Philippine National Police dismissive of the law in his campaign to have them exterminate suspected drug users and traffickers.
- He undermines independent bodies like the Commission on Higher Education, by threatening to replace its tenured head, and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the Anti-Money Laundering Council by threatening to file criminal charges against them without basis.
- He has been using the justice department and a separate branch of government, Congress, to go after his arch-critic Senator Leila de Lima.
We expect all this to continue in 2017, pushing our democracy to the edge.
The times call for vigilance. We shouldn’t let our guard down, ever. – Rappler.com