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Duterte and allies turn cold on revolutionary gov't, but lawyers urge vigilance

President Rodrigo Duterte, his officials, and allies have turned cold on the prospect of declaring a revolutionary government, but a group of lawyers urged the public to remain vigilant to keep the movement in check.

"There is a danger in letting movements like this fester without immediate action. This allows them to coagulate and gather," the Philippine Bar Association (PBA) said in a statement on Thursday, August 27.

"The greatest sin we can commit right now is to dismiss or ignore the true dangers these repeated calls for 'revgov' pose," the PBA added.

President Rodrigo Duterte has disowned the group behind the movement, composed of his supporters, which recently renewed calls for a revolutionary government

"Wala akong pakialam niyan, wala akong kilala na mga tao na 'yan at hindi ko 'yan trabaho (I don't care about that, I don't know them, and that's not my job)" Duterte said on August 24 – a departure from his oft-repeated threats to declare a revolutionary government himself back in 2017.

Although Malacañang initially said the calls fall within freedom of expression, the police later announced it would investigate and see if there's basis to file a complaint against the group.

Saying that "revolts do not happen overnight," the PBA said Filipinos should not stop being vigilant.

"It is fitting that the groups calling for a 'revolutionary government' received near universal condemnation. But it must not end there," it said.

"While the true principals have yet to show their faces, their method is already clear – to sow subtle seeds meant to erode the Rule of Law and the Constitution," the lawyers' group added.

Liabilities?

Lawyers have pointed out that the group may be liable for inciting to sedition, and even the anti-terror law.

Duterte's first House Speaker, Davao del Norte 1st District Representative Pantaleon Alvarez, used to say Congress would have no choice if the President chooses to declare a revolutionary government, citing a clear people's mandate based on his overwhelming victory in the presidential elections.

But following Duterte's change of tune on calls for a revolutionary government, Alvarez, too, followed suit and said on Thursday that "this is not the time for such advocacy."

"It is downright irresponsible especially given the situation we find ourselves in," Alvarez said in a statement.

The ill timing of these calls in the context of the coronavirus pandemic is also the line of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG). 

Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya told CNN Philippines: “We do understand why they want to amend the Constitution. But given that we are battling a great crisis right now, this could be a distraction from what we’re doing.”

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, after initially withholding comment, said on Tuesday, August 25, that he "certainly does not agree with, much less share such calls, in my capacity as a lawyer, as justice secretary, and as an ordinary Filipino citizen." – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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