MANILA (Reuters) – Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Friday downplayed President Rodrigo Duterte's threat to suspend the habeas corpus privilege and declare a "revolutionary war."
"As a lawyer, the president knows the scope and limitations of his constitutional powers and will always act accordingly," Guevarra said, a day after Duterte issued the threat, exasperated by the presence of allegedly disadvantaged contracts with the government.
Duterte attacked the Senate minority, Franklin Drilon, who asked him to be careful in reviewing the contracts.
But Guevarra said that only Duterte could answer what could be the legal basis of his pronouncement.
"What I do know, however, is that he is exasperated over endless obstacles in his attempts to protect the interests of the people," Guevarra told reporters.
"Only the factual circumstances actually obtained at the time will determine whether the actions of the president are in accordance with the constitution," he added when asked if he would support such a measure of the president.
But for the President of the National Union of People's Advocates, Edre Olalia, there was no factual and constitutional basis for Duterte to suspend the habeas corpus privilege.
Duterte's "non-sequitur" and "authoritarian reaction" against a comment by the opposition "validates again the extravagant and vengeful exercise of power," Olalia said.
"There is no reaction from other appropriate people, but fight and fight against brutal despotism clad in cool outfits," he added.
Meanwhile, Vice President Leni Robredo will have to take over the presidency should Duterte assert his threat to declare a revolutionary war, said Romulo Macalintal, Advisor of Robredo in an election protest.
"Magigating President si Vice-President Leni Robredo of a duly constituted government kasi pag siya ay gumawa ng nasabing deklarasyon, ang ibig sabihin ay ceases to be the president of a properly constituted government," said Macalintal, who is running for the Senate under the opposition slate Otso Diretso.
(Vice-President Leni Robredo will be the chairman of a properly constituted government because if he makes such a statement, that means he ceases to be the chairman of a properly constituted government.)
By 2017, Duterte had already threatened to create a "revolutionary government" amid alleged efforts to destabilize his enemies, including communist rebels, the wealthy and even the Central Intelligence Agency. – with a report from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News