Leni says a VP must be ‘ready’ as Rody waxes ‘revolutionary’
Should President Duterte declare a revolutionary government, he would be relinquishing the presidency which, Vice President Leni Robredo said, she was ready to take over.
“Anyone who aspires to the vice presidency must be ready for any eventuality, because that’s the mandate of the office,” Robredo said on Friday in Bohol where she attended an event by Ahon Laylayan Coalition.
Robredo was reacting to Duterte’s threat that he would declare a revolutionary government and jail all his critics after Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon advised him to be careful in reviewing major government contracts to ensure there were no onerous provisions detrimental to the country.
“I have enough problems with criminality, drugs, rebellion and all. But it you push me to my limit, I will declare the suspension of the [privilege of the] writ of habeas corpus and I will arrest all of you,” the President said at the gathering of the Prosecutors’ League of the Philippines in Puerto Princesa City on Thursday night.
Warning to critics
“You will be lumped together with the rebels, the criminals and the drug addicts. You give me a hard time? I will declare a revolutionary war until the end of my term. Let’s see who gives up first,” Duterte said.
The President later told reporters that the threat was only meant to warn critics “that you do not push me to the extreme because it would be dangerous for everybody.”
He also added: “(A)s mayor and as President, I can say what I want to say. When I say, ‘I will kill you,’ that is one. It could be a truism or I am scaring all of you into tiptoeing.”
Robredo initially expressed surprise at the President’s pronouncement, saying that “as a lawyer, [Duterte] knows this is against the Constitution. Does this mean he’s abandoning what he swore [to uphold and protect]?” she asked.
Opposition senatorial candidate and Robredo election lawyer Romy Macalintal said that Duterte would be “divesting himself of the presidency” should he declare a revolutionary government.
“Such act will pave the way for Vice President Leni Robredo to take over the [vacated] position and assume the functions and the Office of the President,” Macalintal said in a statement.
He added that a revolutionary government would put to the test the loyalty of the Armed Forces of the Philippines: “whether to support the hypothetical revolutionary Duterte government or the constitutionally existing government” led by Robredo.
Drilon’s advice referred to a directive that Duterte issued during Monday’s Cabinet meeting, after the President discovered an “onerous” provision in its contract with Maynilad that prevents the government from interfering in the terms of the deal.
While Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra downplayed Duterte’s threat as an expression of his “exasperation … over endless roadblocks to his attempts to protect the people’s interests,” it drew serious concern from rights advocates.
Short temper not an excuse
Makabayan senatorial candidate and Bayan Muna chair Neri Colmenares said the President should “never use his short temper (as) a ground for the suspension of the writ,” adding that the privilege can only be suspended during an invasion or rebellion in the country, and when public safety so requires.
Former Commission on Human Rights Chair Etta Rosales said the country’s 1987 Constitution guaranteed freedom of speech, including criticism of officials.
“The President should know that employing tactics from the Marcos playbook does not end well,” added Rosales, a political detainee during President Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law era.
Opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros said Duterte should confront China for its increasingly aggressive actions in the disputed South China Sea instead of threatening civil liberties. “Instead of standing up to China’s aggression, President Duterte threatens his own people with warrantless arrests and war,” Hontiveros said.
But Senate President Vicente Sotto III described the threat of a revolutionary war as a “mere metaphor,” while Sen. Panfilo Lacson said that President Duterte “will not do it because he is too smart and intelligent to know he cannot do it.” —WITH REPORTS FROM JEROME ANING, MELVIN GASCON AND AP
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