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Be not afraid: Panelo says 1987 Constitution, Duterte’s ‘pure intention’ assure martial law won’t be abused

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President Rodrigo Duterte’s legal adviser has sought to allay fears that his declaration of martial law in Mindanao will be used to extend his term or curtail human rights by saying the 1987 Constitution provides enough safeguards against these abuses.

In a statement posted on Facebook Thursday (May 25), Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo noted that the Constitution limits the validity of the declaration of martial law to 60 days.

“Any extension thereof, in case rebellion or invasion persists and public safety requires it, would be subject to the approval of Congress, voting jointly, by a vote of at least a majority of all its members,” he said.

Panelo said Congress has also the power to revoke the President’s proclamation of martial law, a rejection which he cannot set aside.

In addition to these safeguards, Panelo said any citizen can also ask the Supreme Court to review the proclamation and decide on its legality within 30 days.

“Finally, to be clear, and as provided in the Constitution, a state of martial law does not suspend the operation of the Constitution, nor supplant the functioning of the civil courts or legislative assemblies, nor authorize the conferment of jurisdiction on military courts and agencies over civilians where civil courts are able function,” he said.

Panelo said Duterte’s desire to ensure the public’s safety is also enough reason for the public to believe he will not take advantage of the declaration for personal gain.

“Given the safeguards provided by the Constitution, and the President’s pure intention to do everything within his power to maintain peace and order and ensure the safety of the public, there should be no reason for the public to be anxious about the proclamation of martial law,” he said.

Duterte placed Mindanao under martial law on May 23 due to the ongoing firefight between government troops and the rebel Maute group in Marawi City.

Panelo said the atrocities committed by the Maute group in Marawi City, as well as in several areas in Mindanao last year, is enough basis for Duterte to place the island group under authoritarian rule.

“Undoubtedly, based on the savagery and brutality of the Maute Group, public safety demands the timely and effective response of Government in order to protect and preserve the lives of the thousands of individuals in Mindanao, especially the innocent civilians. All told, the present situation justifies the President’s exercise of his constitutionally-granted power of proclaiming martial law,” he said.