Drilon hits Panelo on martial law: Review some more

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon slammed Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo for claiming that President Rodrigo Duterte can declare martial law on the basis of the worsening state of illegal drugs in the country.

Drilon, a lawyer and former justice secretary, took the chance to lecture Panelo for his "erroneous" statements that have "no legal" basis.

Citing the 1987 Constitution, Drilon said there are two requisites, which Panelo supposedly disregarded, that must be present before martial law can be declared: actual invasion or rebellion and "when public safety requires it."

Article 7, Section 18 of the Constitution states that: "In case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he may, for a period not exceeding sixty days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corps or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law."

"Even a freshman law student can easily debunk Atty Salvador Panelo's statement as having no legal basis. I do not know which Constitution he has learned in law school but our present Constitution has only provided two grounds for the declaration of martial law – invasion or rebellion. Drug menace is definitely not one of them," Drilon said.

The senator then urged Panelo to review basic laws and principles.

"I think it is time that Atty Panelo review basic legal principles to better serve the country as the President's chief legal counsel and to avoid issuing erroneous and reckless statements," Drilon said.

Rewriting the Constitution

Duterte earlier drew flak for threatening to declare martial law if the Supreme Court hinders his campaign against drugs – something that did not sit well with critics in and out of politics.

In defense, Panelo countered that Duterte has "the right and the duty to declare martial law when the public safety requires it."

"The drug problem has risen to a crisis of gigantic proportion that endangers the public safety hence constitutionally a declaration of martial law is valid since there is imminent danger to the public safety," Panelo had said.

For Drilon, the phrase Panelo used – "when public safety requires it" – to defend the possible declaration of martial law is not valid.

Drilon lectured Panelo, saying the phrase is not a ground but only a condition that "qualifies" the two constitutional grounds of rebellion and invasion.

"I think Panelo is rewriting the Constitution," the senator said. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com