Duterte eyes changing martial law provision in Constitution

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(CNN Philippines) — President Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday he needs to change a Constitutional provision  that gives Congress and the Supreme Court the power to revoke or uphold a president's decision to declare martial law.

"[K]ung mag-declare ako ng Martial Law at may invasion ngayon o giyera, I cannot proceed on and on, lalo na kung may gulo, pupunta pa ako sa Congress, pupunta pa ako doon sa Supreme Court," he pointed out during a speech in Pampanga.

[Translation: If I declare martial law amid an invasion or war, I cannot proceed on and on, especially if there is unrest. I would need to go to Congress and to the Supreme Court.]

"Eh kung iba ang Supreme Court, magsabi ang Congress yes, no ito, or no ito, yes itong isa. Saan mo ako ilagay? Kaya kailangan ko talagang palitan 'yan," Duterte added.

[Translation: Well, what happens if the Supreme Court says one thing and Congress says another — one says yes and the other says no? Where would you put me? That's why I really need to change it.]

He did not explain what sort of change he wants or how he plans to do it. A Constitutional Convention or three-fourths of Congress has the power to do amend or revise the Charter. Amendments may also be directly proposed by the people's initiative through a petition of at least 12 percent of the total number of registered voters.

Duterte said that the provision defeats the purpose of declaring martial law, as a president would still have to go to Congress and defend his decision before the Supreme Court during a period of unrest.

"Eh kung magulo ang mundo? Kaya nga martial law na eh. Para isang tao na lang ang mag-direkta."

[Translation: Well what if there is unrest? That's why we have martial law - so that only one person would give directives.]

Article VII, Section 18 of the 1987 Constitution requires the President to submit a report to Congress within 48 hours after declaring martial law. Congress can revoke the President's proclamation through a joint-vote by at least a majority of all its members. The President cannot "set aside" this revocation.

Congress also has the power to extend the duration of martial law from the initial 60-day limit.

Any citizen can also petition the Supreme Court to review the proclamation. The Court will have to promulgate its decision within 30 days from the citizen's filing.

The 1935 Constitution — which was in effect when former President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972 — did not have similar provisions.

Duterte also criticized the Constitution's three-term limit for local officials, and said that it was a "reckless reaction" to Marcos' rule.  "Yun, masama 'yung batas na 'yan, dapat palitan talaga 'yan - maski sinong gobernador or mayor na tanungin mo..."

[Translation: That's a bad law. It should really be changed — ask any governor or mayor...]

No plans for martial law

Earlier this month, Duterte said he had no plans of declaring martial law, despite his war against illegal drugs and the threat of terrorism. According to Duterte, Marcos' declaration of martial law did not uplift the lives of Filipinos.

"Kalokohan 'yan. Nag-martial law man tayo noon, anong nangyari? Gumaling ba ang buhay natin hanggang ngayon? Wala," he said speaking at the Third ARMM Local Government Summit in Davao City.

[Translation: That's nonsense. We had martial law before, what happened? Did it improve our lives now? Not at all.]

Duterte told local officials that he'd rather give them blanket authority to issue necessary orders.

"Martial law for what? Killing people? I would rather empower every mayor," he said.

During a speech in Makati last October, Duterte said the gravity of illegal drugs in the country has tempted him to declare martial law.

"There are 6,000 barangay captains doing their own thing, manufacturing shabu. How am I supposed to deal with — sometimes, I'm tempted really to declare martial law but it is not feasible to say."