Ref: Prof. H. Harry L. Roque, jr
Centerlaw agrees with P Noy ‘s decision not to impose Martial Law in Tacloban. Factually, it was reported that there has been a breakdown of law and order with looting and other crimes now rampant in the city most ravaged by Yolanda. While a despot would welcome any opportunity to infringe on civil liberties, including the suspension of the privilege of the of the writ of habeas corpus, which would mean non-recourse to the courts to question a person’s detention, I am happy that P Noy rejected the temptation to exercise powers of a dictator.
Under our Constitution, the President has three extra-ordinary powers as Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which powers are hierarchically provided and exercised accordingly. First, he has power to call upon the “armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion”, the power to declare a national emergency. Further in cases of n case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he may, for a period not exceeding sixty days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law. Further, Congress may declare a state of emergency.
PNoy was correct that while there is a breakdown of peace and order in Leyte, the suspension of the privilege or the declaration of martial law should be exercised with caution. This is because freedoms are protected the Bill of rights and any derogation hence from the duty to protect and promote them should be construed strictly.
Centerlaw, a Civil Society Group that seeks to strengthen the applicability of human rights norms in the country, then supports P Noy’s decision to call in the armed forces to restore and order in Tacloban. We commend him for rightfully rejecting the exercise of dictatorial powers.