SolGen: Martial law provisions in charter must be changed

Pia Ranada
SolGen: Martial law provisions in charter must be changed
Solicitor General Jose Calida agrees with President Rodrigo Duterte that the protective provisions must be amended in light of future 'emergency situations'

MANILA, Philippines – Solicitor General Jose Calida agrees with President Rodrigo Duterte that the provisions in the 1987 Constitution meant to safeguard the people against abuse of martial law must be modified.

“Yes, I agree,” said Calida when pressed by reporters on Thursday, January 19, after a Palace news briefing.

The provisions limiting the powers of the President in declaring martial law do not fully appreciate future emergency situations that require quick decision-making, he said.

In the Constitution, martial law can only last at most 60 days unless Congress votes to extend it. But what if Congress “dilly-dallies?” asked Calida.

“Because it is an emergency situation, there should be haste. We do not have the luxury of time for 60 days to validate whether or not there is really an emergency. Somebody has to act fast on it,” he said.

Calida could not give his preferred time limit for the imposition of martial law, saying he leaves the details to future members of the Constituent Assembly.

Calida agrees with Duterte that the 1987 Constitution was a “reflex action” after the “Marcos experience.” 

“So it was not a normal situation when they drafted the Constitution. Probably now, there is no more need for those [provisions]….If some constitutional provisions do not work under an emergency situation, then we have a problem,” said the government’s lawyer.

But Calida said he still wants “safeguards” in the amended constitution.

“Yes, safeguards to everybody. In other words, the medicine must be sufficient to cure the disease,” he said.

Calida ‘undermining’ his responsibility

Former Commission on Human Rights chairperson Loretta Rosales, a Martial Law victim, criticized Calida for “undermining” his responsibility as the government’s lawyer by supporting changes to the martial law provisions. 

“He is undermining his own responsibility as solicitor general. He has to represent the government as the government that represents the Filipino people but against executive abuse,” Rosales told Rappler.

She said the provisions Calida and Duterte want amended are meant to “make sure the President is accountable to people through representatives in Congress and Supreme Court.”

In recent days, Duterte has publicly expressed his disdain for the constitutional limitations to declaring martial law. (READ: Duterte: Give president sole power to declare martial law)

On Wednesday, he said there is “no compelling reason” for him to declare martial law at the moment but that terrorism in Mindanao is cause for alarm.

Duterte has also said he would declare martial law “if he wants to” and that “no one can stop” him if he decided the declaration is for the good of the country. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.