Zarate defends Duterte in habeas corpus row
A militant lawmaker and ally of President Rodrigo Duterte said it would be premature to liken President Duterte to the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos for suggesting the idea of suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.
In a press conference on Monday, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said it was an “off” comparison at this point to compare Duterte to Marcos who imposed martial law after suspending the writ in 1971 following the Plaza Miranda bombing.
The Mindanao lawmaker said unlike Duterte, who opened peace talks with communist and Muslim groups, Marcos suppressed the criticism and the rights of dissenters during his brutal two-decade regime.
Zarate also cited and lauded Duterte’s vow to take up an independent foreign policy.
“Na-i-stretch agad (It’s a stretch at this point). Apat na buwan (pa lang si Duterte) tapos ganun agad ang comparison. Ang diktador na si Marcos, talagang nag-deklara ng martial law, sinuspinde at inatake ang karapatan ng mga mamamayan,” Zarate said.
“Nabanggit kanina na naibubukas ang usaping pangkapayapaan, nagsusulong din ng nagsasariling patakaran… I think yung ganung comparison ay napaka-off at this point,” Zarate added.
The militant lawmaker said Duterte has no legal basis to suspend the privilege of the writ to back up his administration’s war on drugs.
Zarate said the 1987 Constitution clearly states that the President may suspend the writ only in cases of rebellion or invasion, when the public safety requires it.
“Sinasabi nating walang legal na basehan ang suspension ng privilege of the writ. Malinaw sa ating Saligang-Batas na ang lawless violence is not a ground,” Zarate said.
For his part, Act Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio cautioned the President against using the powers of his office to trim down constitutional rights in the name of his administration’s war on drugs.
“Panawagan natin kay Pangulong Duterte – iwasan niya na gamitin ang so-called war on drugs bilang pagkakataon para mabawasan ang mga constitutional rights ng taumbayan,” Tinio said.
“May problema tayo sa droga sa ating lipunan, pero hindi ito maaaring maging excuse para mabawasan ang human rights at civil liberties ng mamamayang Pilipino,” he added.
The suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus would essentially allow warrantless arrest. The writ is a privilege given to aggrieved parties seeking the court’s intervention for the state to produce the body of a person in custody.
Under Article VII, Section 18 of the Constitution, the President may suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in case of invasion or rebellion, or when the public safety requires it, for a period not exceeding 60 days.
The Supreme Court, under the Constitution, may review the factual basis of the suspension of the privilege of the writ or the extension upon the filing of a petition from a concerned citizen.
The President is also required to submit a report to Congress about the suspension of the writ. Congress in a majority vote may revoke or even extend the suspension of the writ.
President Duterte in first floating the idea to suspend the writ singled out the terrorist activities of the Lanao-based group Maute group which was responsible for the September bomb attack at a night market in Davao city that left 15 dead.
Duterte also cited the rebellion in Mindanao and the proliferation of illegal drugs in the country.
The dictator Marcos suspended the writ in 1971 following the Plaza Miranda bombing, supposedly to suppress the lawless violence of communist insurgents.
Marcos’ suspension of the writ and declaration of martial law paved the way for thousands of enforced disappearances, summary killings and human rights violations of critics during his two-decade regime.
Marcos was recently allowed by the Supreme Court to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani./rga
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