MANILA –The Office of the Solicitor General on Thursday said President Rodrigo Duterte can still declare martial law even without the concurrence of the Supreme Court or Congress if the life of the country is already at stake.
In a press briefing in Malacañang, Solicitor General Jose Calida said that while the SC is the final arbiter of the Constitution, the President, on his own, can still impose martial law “in very extreme circumstances.”
“The President has the power under the Constitution to declare martial law if there are certain conditions which are present at that particular time. When it is already the life of the country that is at stake, the lives of the citizens of this country, the President will not stand by, you know, just like Nero and let Rome burn,” he said.
“When there is really a clear and present danger to our country and nobody will help the President do his job as the father of the nation, then he will not allow his family so to speak, us Filipinos, to suffer because of the inability or unwillingness of certain functionaries to do what is right for the country,” Calida said.
The Republic’s primary defender however clarified that his statement was only an answer to a hypothetical situation wherein the President declares martial law and the other branches of government disagree, leading to a stalemate.
On Wednesday, President Duterte said that if he ever decides to declare martial law and there is a stalemate between Congress and the Supreme Court, he will have the final say.
Calida said there has to be a set of circumstances that will lead a president, not necessarily President Duterte, to do something for his country when it is already on the throes of danger.
“I cannot really exactly describe the exact scenario but it’s something like this: when the country is in great danger, when the youth of this country is also in great danger and there is criminality that is, that cannot be stopped anymore, then probably, somebody has to make a decision,” the Solicitor General said.
“In other words, there is already a breakdown of law and order. And nobody is acting or they are afraid to act. Somebody has to act and it should be the President,” Calida said.
In the meantime, Calida defended President Duterte’s statements on martial law and stressed that these should not be misconstrued as a warning of its impending declaration but rather as an affirmation of the President’s willingness to act for the welfare of the nation and its citizens.
“Sometimes, what you hear from him is not really what he wants to communicate. So we have to read between the lines. Remember, he said, ‘if I want to.’ It doesn’t mean he will do it. But he can do it if he wants to,” he said.
The bottom line here, he said, is if the Philippines is put in danger and nobody acts, President Duterte will act.
“The President cares so much for the future of the Philippines. That’s why he put at stake his life, his honor, and the presidency itself. If you know him, he will act and he will act for the greater interest of the Filipino people. Now, if the other branches of the government will not help him, what will he do? Will he just wash his hands like Pontius Pilate?” Calida said.