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MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Given the threat of terrorism in the country, Vice President Leni Robredo said she supports President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to declare martial law in Mindanao.
“May guidelines na inilabas, ito iyong tinitingnan natin. Gusto nating maging supportive sa administrasyon kasi sa tindi ng problema natin sa terorismo, hindi ito iyong panahon na nag-aaway-away tayo,” Robredo said in a chance interview on Friday, May 26.
(There were guidelines released and we are studying them. We want to be supportive of the administration because of the serious threat of terrorism. This is not the time that we should be fighting.)
Her statement of support, however, came with a reminder to the public to remain vigilant against the revival of authoritarian rule.
“Hindi na natin papayagan na ito ang maging daan para magkaroon ulit ng nilabanan natin dati na uri ng pamamahala. Sana hindi na ulit bumalik. Pero iyong sa atin gusto nating ihayag ang suporta natin sa ating pangulo at hukbong sandatahan. Kailangan tayong magkaisa,” she said.
(We can’t allow a revival of the kind of government we resisted before. We hope we don’t experience it again. But we want to express our support to our President and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. We need to unite.)
Safeguard against abuse
In a separate statement released also on Friday, Robredo acknowledged the President’s constitutional power to declare martial law. But she said there should be concrete measures to safeguard against abuse, along with defined parameters that say when it can be lifted.
“The report submitted to Congress states that martial law shall be in effect ‘until such time that the rebellion is completely quelled.’ How does the administration define ‘completely quelled?’ What does the administration like to see happen before withdrawing the imposition of martial law as well as re-establishing the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus?” she said.
The Vice President also said other previous anti-terror measures were effective even without martial law. “As such, do we have reason to expect the expansion of the coverage of martial law and its prolongation?” she asked.
Robredo then urged Congress to perform its “constitutional duty of reviewing and deciding on the validity of the declaration.”
Under the 1987 Constitution, the President has to report to Congress “in person or in writing” about the declaration within 48 hours. The legislative body then will jointly approve or revoke the declaration. It also has the power to extend it beyond the 60-day maximum period.
Malacañang on Thursday evening, May 25, submitted the report to Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez during the special Cabinet meeting in Davao City.
Both houses of Congress will have their respective briefings, along with Cabinet members, on the content of the report next week. Lawmakers are expected to raise their questions about the report in closed-door meetings.
Uphold human rights
A human rights lawyer, Robredo called on the government and the military to uphold human rights in the conduct of their operations.
“Gusto natin humingi ng assurance galing sa administrasyon at sa hukbong sandatahan na siguraduhin na hindi na ulit mangyayari iyong nangyari noong panahon ng diktadurya [ni Marcos],” she said.
(We want assurance from the administration and the AFP that what happened during the Marcos dictatorship won’t happen again.)
The Department of National Defense on Wednesday, May 24, ordered the AFP to uphold the rule of law and human rights in Mindanao, following Duterte’s proclamation. (READ: TIMELINE: Marawi clashes prompt martial law in all of Mindanao)
The Philippines was put under martial law by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos from 1972 to 1981. Robredo had made public her criticism of his infamous authoritarian regime and Duterte’s decision to bury Marcos in the Heroes’ Cemetery in 2016.
Marcos’ Martial Law was marred by killings, illegal detention, torture, suppression of the right to free expression, and other human rights violations.
Robredo has been very vocal in her opposition to martial law in the country.
The Vice President attended a security briefing by the AFP in their headquarters, Camp Aguinaldo, in Quezon City last Wednesday. (READ: Robredo: ‘Trust the AFP’ in martial law implementation)
Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on Tuesday evening, May 23, during his official visit to Russia. The President has said he may expand its scope to the Visayas and even nationwide, if terrorist threats persist.
Robredo, however, said she sees no reason for martial law to be imposed in the Visayas and Luzon. – Rappler.com