Duterte may suspend writ of habeas corpus in Visayas

Pia Ranada
Duterte may suspend writ of habeas corpus in Visayas
President Rodrigo Duterte says this plan is 'just a precautionary measure' in case terrorists 'transfer venue' to the Visayas

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday, May 31, that if the terrorist threat reaches the Visayas, he would suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the region rather than place it under the scope of martial law.

Duterte modified his position on a possible expansion of martial law to the Visayas in his speech at the 119th anniversary of the Philippine Navy at Sasa Wharf in Davao City.

“If there is maybe a transfer of venue [of terrorists] from Mindanao to the Visayas and to make it easy for the Philippines to challenge the new engagements, I will be forced to declare the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, not martial law,” said the President.

Suspending the writ allows government forces to arrest persons of interest without a warrant. However, in the 1987 Constitution, those arrested or detained should be released if charges are not filed against them within 3 days. (READ: Martial Law 101: Things you should know)

The suspension  of the writ will also only apply to “persons judicially charged for rebellion or offenses inherent in or directly connected with the invasion.” 

Duterte said he hopes he would not be forced to suspend the writ of habeas corpus in the Visayas.

“It is just a precautionary measure. I do not think it will happen, I hope it will not happen but if it does, we must be ready,” said Duterte.

He said there is no “middle ground” when it comes to fighing terrorists.

“There is no middle ground here. We are not talking of an ordinary police operation. They’re trying to correct a way of living for everybody and they do it by killing people, invoking the name of god,”  Duterte said.

The writ of habeas corpus, which safeguards individual freedom against arbitrary state action, may be suspended outside martial law. Martial law declaration also does not automatically mean suspension of the writ.

But suspension of the writ should only last 60 days, the same duration for martial law as stipulated by the 1987 Constitution.

Hours after declaring martial law in Mindanao, Duterte said he was considering expanding martial law coverage to the Visayas since the region is “walking distance” from Mindanao. He also said he could put the entire country under martial law if terror threats escalate.

General Jon Aying, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army based in Capiz, earlier said a spillover of the Maute Group to the Visayas was unlikely because the terrorists had no bases or sympathizers in the region. 

The Department of National Defense has assured the public that human rights would be upheld as the government implements martial law. Lawmakers in both houses of Congress have voted to no longer hold a joint session to deliberate on Duterte’s martial law proclamation.

In Marawi, ground zero of clashes between Maute Group and government forces which convinced Duterte to declare martial law, 95 terrorists had been killed while 8 had surrendered.  (READ: Marawi Clash: Special coverage)

DND chief and martial law administrator Delfin Lorenzana hopes to end the siege on Friday, June 2. But the military said the state of martial law will continue even after the siege ends. (READ: Martial law may continue after Marawi siege– Rappler.com

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.