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Cha-cha is now dangerous–Lagman

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman. INQUIRER.net FILE PHOTO

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman. INQUIRER.net FILE PHOTO

An opposition lawmaker said on Saturday it is “dangerous” to continue the moves in Congress to amend the 1987 Constitution after President Duterte’s remark that he should have the power to declare martial law without the approval of Congress and the Supreme Court.

“It is dangerous to proceed in amending the Constitution either by constituent assembly (Con-ass) or constitutional convention (Con-con) when we have a President who wants the legitimation of dictatorial powers,” Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said in a statement.

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Lagman, a leader of the opposition bloc known as the “Magnificent 7” in the House of Representatives, said Congress should discard its plan to amend the Constitution via a Con-ass to allay fears of the return of the dictatorship that were stoked by Mr. Duterte’s statement.

“All initiatives to amend the Constitution must be consigned to the back burner to assure that the dismantling of congressional and judicial safeguards on the presidential declaration of martial law will not be realized,” he said.

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Lagman said Mr. Duterte’s remark betrayed “his authoritarian designs which must never be constitutionalized.”

“The power of Congress to revoke a presidential declaration of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus as well as the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to review the factual basis of such declarations were mandated in the 1987 Constitution to preclude abuses curtailing civil and political rights like the unrestrained imposition of martial law without time limit,” he said.

On Thursday, Mr. Duterte, in a speech delivered in Angeles City, Pampanga, questioned why he as President would need to seek the approval of Congress or the Supreme Court to declare martial law in the event of war.

“What if the Supreme Court and Congress did not agree? Who will the police heed?” he said.

Meanwhile, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said on Sunday that Congress was preparing itself for the big possibility that it may convene itself as a Con-ass to tackle amendments to the 1987 Constitution.

Speaking on dzBB radio, Pimentel acknowledged that there was more preference for convening a Con-ass than creating a  Con-con.

A Con-ass means members of Congress will convene to tackle Charter changes while people will have to elect delegates to form a Con-con.

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“We are preparing ourselves. As lawmakers, we are reading up the Constitution and thinking what changes should be made there,” Pimentel said.

Pimentel said that so far, the focus on the possible changes in the Constitution is changing the form of government from unitary to a federalist state.

Pimentel tried to allay concerns on the possibility that among the Charter changes that may be raised include President Duterte’s pronouncements he wanted sole authority to be able to declare martial law in the country.

But Pimentel said this was “not a shocking idea” as before the 1987 Constitution, this had happened when the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared martial rule in 1972.

The Senate president said such proposal could be heard and discussed as he made clear he did not think President Duterte was a dictator.

Pimentel said he has not heard anyone from Davao City where the President used to serve as its longtime mayor of him being a dictator.

“The President is just hard on drugs and crimes. He is just being consistent,” Pimentel added.

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