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Illegal drugs danger enough grounds for martial law - Panelo.

The 'imminent danger' posed by the prevalence of illegal drugs would be enough reason for President Duterte to place the country under martial law, his chief legal adviser said on Wednesday.

Citing provisions of the 1987 Constitution, Presidential Chief Legal Adviser Salvador Panelo said Mr. Duterte could declare martial law if he deemed it necessary to carry out his constitutional duty to 'protect and serve the people.'

He also defended the President from criticisms, saying he only threatened to use martial law to pursue the government's anti-drug campaign after Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno 'reprimanded' Mr. Duterte about identifying the trial court judges alleged to have been protecting illegal drug traders.

'The Constitution says the President can declare martial law not only in cases of invasion or rebellion, but when public safety requires it. Right now, the safety of the public is in imminent danger,' Panelo told a news briefing in Malacanang.

In the event that the President opted to use his constitutional authority to foist martial rule, he said the people need not worry because the President would not use it to commit abuses like what the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos did.

'Those who are against martial law are the criminals, tax evaders and the smugglers. All those who are against good government will be against martial law,' Panelo said.

However, he quickly clarified, 'But I don't think the President will do that.'

The Palace lawyer also claimed that the public would support Mr. Duterte as he noted that the Chief Executive was swept into office via a landslide victory in the May 9 balloting.

He played down the supposed chilling effect of the President's threat, saying the people already knew that Mr. Duterte had warned to closed down the Congress if its members 'will not be cooperative with respect to the platforms and programs he would undertake.'

Said Panelo: 'The Filipinos, in voting him in a landslide win, have already given him the mandate to do the things that he has promised us during the campaign. So how can that be a chilling effect?'

Asked if the current situation has become ripe for the declaration of the iron-hand rule, he said: 'It depends on the President. If he feels that public safety requires declaration of martial law, then constitutionally he can do it.'

Panelo doused insinuations that the Duterte administration was exaggerating the severity of the drug menace to justify the killings of drug personalities.

He said law enforcement agencies noted that nearly 98 percent of barangay (villages) across the country were 'infiltrated' by illegal drugs.

When asked if he would advise the President to declare martial law, he said: 'That's for the President to decide. It's only the President who has been given sole authority by the Constitution to judge whether or not public safety requires martial law.'

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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Aug 11, 2016
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