MANILA, Philippines – Even if security officials did not recommend martial law, President Rodrigo Duterte was still within his rights to declare it, said Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo.
“It’s his call. The Constitution precisely gives him that judgment call,” said Panelo on Tuesday, May 30, during a chance interview with Palace reporters.
Earlier that day, minority bloc senators claimed that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told them that the Marawi conflict could be contained by government forces even without martial law. It was not security officials who recommended to the President that he declare martial law.
Panelo, however, has yet to speak to Lorenzana about what he supposedly told senators in a closed-door briefing on Monday.
Panelo said that even if this were true, it does not mean Duterte’s declaration has no legal or factual basis.
“I don’t think so, even assuming that he said that, the [DND] secretary may have said that based on a limited information while the President is grounded on expanded information coming from many sources. I do not think there is an inconsistency,” Panelo told reporters.
“That is precisely why the Constitution gave him that discretion, to determine whether the facts would justify the imposition of martial law,” he added.
However, in recent speeches, Duterte underscored how much trust he has on the intelligence and recommendations of the military and police.
On Saturday, the President said he would only lift martial law at the say-so of security forces, not any other government agency.
But according to lawmakers, they were told Duterte decided to declare martial law on his own, not based on recommendations of security officials.
Both houses of Congress have asked for briefings from Lorenzana and other security officials about Duterte’s martial law declaration and the situation in Marawi City.
Fifteen senators expressed support for the declaration while others, especially Duterte critics, have questioned the need for the declaration to cover the entire Mindanao.
Lawmakers are divided on whether or not to hold a joint congressional session to deliberate on the declaration. – Rappler.com