15 June 2017

News Story: Vast scope of Duterte's martial law powers alarms petitioners

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte
By Mikas Matsuzawa

MANILA, Philippines — Petitioners are wary the broad powers extended to President Rodrigo Duterte under martial law may be abused, citing alleged extrajudicial killings in the administration's drug war and reported violations documented on the ground in Marawi City.

On the second day of oral arguments at the Supreme Court on Wednesday on Proclamation 216, which imposed martial law and suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao, questions revolved around the scope of the president's powers under martial law.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio asked Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, House opposition leader and a counsel in one of the petitions, what powers the president acquired under martial law.

Lagman was unable to delve on specifics but explained his understanding of military rule, where the Armed Forces could exercise extraordinary powers that might affect human rights and civil liberties.

Lagman's brother Hermon was a labor lawyer and founder of the Free Legal Assistance Group.  He was abducted in 1977 and was never seen again. 

Setting limits on martial law

Lagman said the Integrated Bar of the Philippines chapter in Lanao del Sur, which initially backed Duterte's martial law, expressed shock over accounts of lost valuables after forcible and unauthorized entries into residential and commercial establishments by troops.

Lagman added Duterte's quip that he would take responsibility if soldiers rape, could embolden them to commit crimes. The president has explained that he was being sarcastic when he said that.

Human rights watchdog Karapatan last week said it has documented four incidents of killings and thousands of civilians being displaced due to military airstrikes. “Martial law does not mean security and safety. Rather, it makes people’s rights even more susceptible to violations," the rights group said, urging Duterte to lift martial law.

Read the full story at PhilStar