Duterte foes urge people to resist ‘revolutionary gov’t’ threat
President Rodrigo Duterte’s threat to establish a revolutionary government is unconstitutional and will pave the way for a dictatorship, according to members of the political opposition and his critics who called on Filipinos and the military to resist such a plan.
“The threat of President Rodrigo Duterte to declare a ‘revolutionary government’ has no constitutional basis and is based on imagined fears,” Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said in a statement on Saturday.
Lagman, a leader of the minority bloc in the House of Representatives, said a revolutionary government follows a successful uprising or revolt to overthrow a president, like what happened during the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution when dictator Ferdinand Marcos was overthrown.
“It is not a product of a self-serving declaration of a sitting President ostensively to retain and prolong the exercise of powers and ‘crush’ perceived enemies of the state,” he added.
Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chair Jose Luis Martin “Chito” Gascon said a revolutionary government would be “unequivocally unlawful, thus unjustified.”
“The notion of establishing a so-called ‘revolutionary government’ is alien and abhorrent to the 1987 Constitution,” said Gascon, who was a member of the Constitutional Commission that drafted the 1987 Constitution under President Corazon Aquino.
The Liberal Party (LP) said in a Twitter post that the establishment of a revolutionary government “means we can no longer speak against the unjust and inhumane policies and decisions of the government.”
“We’ve already won against dictatorship before, we will not allow to lose again the freedoms we enjoy today,” it added.
The President warned he would declare a revolutionary government and order the arrest of his critics if their alleged attempts to destabilize his government escalated and caused chaos.
In an interview with the government-run TV station PTV broadcast on Friday night, Mr. Duterte said he would rather declare a revolutionary government than martial law to avoid making reports to Congress.
“If your destabilization worsens and results in chaos, I will not hesitate to declare a revolutionary government until the end of my term, and I will arrest all of you and we can go to a full scale war against the reds,” he said in the interview, which was recorded on Thursday. “I will clear the streets and I will declare all government positions vacant.”
Mr. Duterte has accused the “reds” and the “yellows” — the communist rebels and LP members and supporters — of conspiring against him. The Communist Party of the Philippines has denied such an alliance.
Mr. Duterte said the Armed Forces of the Philippines was aware that the most active group in the supposed destabilization plot was the communist party, which was why the military would not join any moves against him.
He was referring to past military actions that had led to a regime change — first by reformist officers who broke away from Marcos and triggered the 1986 Edsa Revolution and then the Edsa II revolt in 2001 when key military and police officers led by chief of staff Angelo Reyes withdrew support from then President Joseph Estrada, who was forced to step down amid charges of corruption.
Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, a former military rebel officer, called on the military to uphold the Constitution as protector of the people and defender of democracy.
“It is the same Constitution that Duterte threatens to abolish which provides the basis for the AFP to abide with the President as its Commander in Chief. Absent of this, the AFP has no basis to follow the orders of Duterte as they are not the private Army of his but of the entire Filipino citizenry,” he said.
Alejano said Mr. Duterte’s threats were intended to “mask his own shortcomings” as a leader.
Lagman dismissed the destabilization plot alleged by the President, saying the Left and the opposition have only expressed critical dissent against his actions that undermined democratic institutions with his threats to the independence of the Ombudsman and Chief Justice.
The reporting to Congress required during martial law is a constitutional safeguard against abuses.
Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, a member of the House minority, said Mr. Duterte wanted to test the limits of what a President could do, up to setting up a dictatorship, and to check the loyalties of the military and the police.
“We must reach out to our countrymen and explain that the revolutionary government the President envisions is actually a one-man dictatorship,” he said.
Renato Reyes, secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, said Mr. Duterte’s threat was aimed at eliminating the other branches of government for one-man rule and suppressing dissent.
“Draconian measures will only fuel protest, not resolve it,” he said.
Mr. Duterte is setting the stage for a return of the Marcos-style dictatorship, former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares told the French news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Colmenares said the threat was part of Duterte’s “established pattern of intolerance to dissenting voices and his belief that brute force will solve all problems.” One of Duterte’s fiercest critics, Sen. Leila de Lima, is in jail on drug trafficking charges that she and human rights groups say were meant to silence her.
The President said his declaration of a revolutionary government would be similar to the move made by Aquino after the People Power Revolution toppled Marcos in 1986 and installed her as President.
Aquino then sacked all elected officials, abolished Congress and tore up the 1973 Constitution in favor of a provisional charter.
But she ensured a new Constitution was passed and stepped aside after elections in 1992. She is revered by many Filipinos who see her as a heroine of democracy.
To prevent a recurrence of a dictatorship, the post-Aquino Constitution limited Presidents to a single term of six years. —WITH REPORTS FROM JAYMEE T. GAMIL, JOCELYN R. UY AND AFP
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