Dela Rosa: Suspending habeas corpus makes job 'easier'
MANILA, Philippines – Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa on Monday, November 14, expressed support for the possible suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, telling reporters that it would "make [their] job easier."
Dela Rosa was asked about President Rodrigo Duterte's warning last week that he can suspend the privilege if the threat of lawlessness – particularly the narcotics trade – persists in the country.
"If you force my hand into it, I will declare the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, not martial law," Duterte said on Friday, November 11, at the launch of the Pilipinong May Puno Foundation in Davao City.
"Malaki po [ang tulong] (It will be of huge help). Number one, it will make our job easier. Number two, it will provide enough deterrence to the drug violators," said Dela Rosa during a press conference at the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame.
At the same time, however, Dela Rosa said that he and Duterte have yet to speak about the possibility of suspending the privilege. Should the warning become reality, Dela Rosa said he would consult with the PNP's legal team to release guidelines ensuring the "uniform implementation" of the order.
Dela Rosa did not name any specific threat that would compel Duterte to take such drastic moves, but said the President was "considering all factors in his decisions." (READ: Suspending habeas corpus to harm PNP, drug war – Lacson)
Police and military units in Maguindanao are reportedly on heightened alert following the death of Datu Saudi Ampatuan Mayor Samsudin Dimaukom in a reported shootout with police at a checkpoint late October.
Guarantees against abuse?
Duterte's "warning" has sparked condemnation from various politicians and groups. Senators from the once-ruling Liberal Party, for instance, have insisted that there is no basis for the suspension of the privilege. (READ: LP senators: 'No basis' to suspend writ of habeas corpus)
Even Senator Panfilo Lacson, who was once chief of the PNP, said suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus would be detrimental to the police force's image.
"It doesn't speak well of the PNP's war against illegal drugs and criminality because when you say we're under a state of lawlessness and that's your reason to suspend the writ of habeas corpus or declare martial law, that means the police are losing when in fact you're saying crime is down by 49%," he said.
The late dictator Ferdinand Marcos suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus when he placed the country under martial law, a period marred by human rights abuses, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings.
Under the Constitution, the President may suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus "in case of invasion and rebellion, when the public safety requires it."
Asked about possible human rights violations by police, Dela Rosa said whether the privilege is suspended or not, abusive police will find a way to break the law.
"Even if the writ of habeas corpus is suspended or not, if a cop really wants to abuse his position, he or she will do it. But we remain, we are here to serve and protect. We will serve the public and we will not abuse our power. That's our assurance to the public," he said. – Rappler.com