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Duterte: I will declare martial law if I want to

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte said that if the situation in the Philippines becomes "virulent," he will declare martial law if he "wants" to.

"Kung gusto ko (If I want to), and if it will deteriorate into something really very virulent, I will declare martial law if I want to. Walang makapigil sa akin (No one can stop me)," said Duterte on Saturday, January 14, in Davao City. 

He was speaking at the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Incorporated's installation of trustees and officers at the Marco Polo Hotel.

The President was not specific about the potentially "virulent" situation in the country, but before the statement, he was defending his war against drugs. 

"Pagka mayroong kailangan, sabihin ng kabila (If it is needed, the other side will say), drugs, that's not enough, tapos nakikita ko na (then I see that), you know, there are about 4 million slaves in this country," he said.

Duterte gave assurances that, if he were to declare martial law, he would only do so with the best interest of citizens in mind.

"If I have to declare martial law, I will declare it, not because of invasion, insurrection, I will declare martial law to preserve my nation, period," he said.

In the 1987 Constitution, a President can only declare martial law "in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it."

If Duterte were to declare martial law, he would also have to submit a report to Congress within 48 hours of the declaration. Congress can vote to revoke the declaration.

Martial law can only last 60 days unless Congress votes to extend it "if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it."

The Constitution has another safeguard against any abuse of martial law. Any citizen can bring a case to the Supreme Court (SC) questioning the factual basis of martial law.

In the Saturday speech, Duterte repeated his criticism of these safeguards, asking what would happen if Congress and the SC have differing positions on the martial law declaration. Duterte would then have to take a side.

"Here is Congress and here is the Supreme Court drawn into a stalemate just to have the safety nets of an abusive despot or dictator. Where will I go then? So if the Supreme Court decides otherwise and here is Congress, what will I do now? There is no more control. The 3 great branches of government, two are against one another so I, as President, will decide," he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Duterte said if the drug problem calls for it, he would ignore the Supreme Court.

"Wala akong pakialam diyan sa (I don't care about the) Supreme Court because of the right to preserve one's life and my nation. My country transcends everything else, even the limitation," he said. 

By the end of his speech, though Duterte admitted he could not interfere with the Supreme Court and Congress, if the situation calls for it, he would be capable of doing so.

"Ang hindi ko kontrolado ang (I don't control the)judiciary because that is a different department. I am not supposed to intrude, that would be unconstitutional. And, of course, Congress, hindi din natin makaya. Makaya natin, pagdating ng panahon, madali iyan. Wala na iyang 60 days, 60 days," he said.

(Of course, Congress, we can't hack it. But one day we will be able to, when the time comes, that's easy. No more 60-day limitation.)

Previously, Duterte said he sees "no need" to declare martial law, saying the state of national emergency due to lawless violence is enough. 

He has also said declaring martial law would only burden innocent people. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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