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Morales: Ombudsman Mindanao can probe abuses under martial law

Also, ex-SC justice downplays Duterte's blunt rejection of high court authority on martial law as a kneejerk reaction
/ 04:43 PM May 29, 2017

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales talks to reporters about President Duterte’s martial law in Mindanao after the launching of the “Corrupt-Free Philippines Video Contest” on May 29, 2017 (PHOTO BY VINCE NONATO / INQUIRER)

MANILA — Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has said the Ombudsman’s office in Mindanao can still investigate abuses under the martial law, including arbitrary arrests.

Asked if her office would initiate motu proprio investigations, Morales replied: “In the event of arbitrary arrests, it is possible if it involves public officials or private officials in conspiracy with public officials.”

She said on Monday that it has been and would continue to be business as usual for the constitutional body.  She said no martial law declaration could suspend the rights provided under the 1987 Constitution. For now, she said no special measures have been put in place for the agency’s Mindanao office to do its job.

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At the same time, Morales downplayed the statement of President Rodrigo Duterte that he would “not listen” to the Supreme Court and Congress, the two co-equal branches of government mandated to safeguard against martial law abuses.

“He just said that. That’s a mere knee-jerk reaction to the Supreme Court,” said Morales, a retired Supreme Court justice whose nephew Manases Carpio is a son-of-law of Duterte.

“Our Bill of Rights remain. The parameters of the declaration of martial law are defined in the Constitution,” she noted. “So the President is a lawyer, he has advisers, he should know the limitations indicated in the Constitution.”

In her short interview at the sidelines of the launch of the Corrupt-Free Philippines Video Contest, Morales did not comment at length about the declaration in effect in Mindanao. This is to avoid prejudgment of cases that could be filed against government and military officials.

“That’s the reason why I don’t like to talk about martial law, because there could be cases brought before us, eh, I might be prejudging inadvertently whatever actions we might be taking,” she said.  SFM/rga

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