President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday raised the possibility of declaring martial law if the judiciary will get in the way of his ongoing war against illegal drugs.
Duterte made the remarks after Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno wrote him a letter as regards the seven judges that Duterte named in his list of alleged coddlers of drug dealers.
Sereno had said that the judges Duterte tagged in drug trafficking should not surrender to law enforcers unless there were warrants for their arrest.
"Ikaw ang kingpin sa judiciary. Ako, presidente. Ako may trabaho, ikaw wala. Walang mga judges na nagpa-patrol ng daan. Walang mga sheriff ninyo na naghuhuli," Duterte said in yet another speech before government troops, this time in Camp Evangelista in Cagayan De Oro City.
"Yan ang mabigat na problema ko... Hindi ako gago. If this continues, pigilan mo ako, o di sige... Or would you rather that I declare martial law?" he added.
‘Don’t create a crisis’
Duterte said many have suffered because of the proliferation of illegal drugs in the country.
"Pinapatay ang mga Pilipino. I grieve for the so many women raped, men killed, infants raped, tapos ipitin mo ako? I have to clean," Duterte said.
Duterte also raised the possibility of ordering members of the executive branch to ignore the orders of the judiciary.
"Do not create a crisis because I will order everyone in the Executive Department not to honor you," Duterte said.
Duterte also took a swipe at President Benigno Aquino III and the past administration.
"There was a slaughter going on. And mind you, you were appointed by the government there in your office as Chief Justice at that time na walang ginawa ang gobyerno," Duterte said.
‘Protectors of constitutional rights’
In a letter, Sereno told Duterte that she had advised judges against making themselves "physically accountable" if there were no warrants issued for their arrest.
"To safeguard the role of the judges as the protectors of constitutional rights, I would caution them very strongly against 'surrendering' or making themselves physically accountable to any police officer in the absence of any duly-issued warrant of arrest that is pending," Sereno told Duterte.
But the President argued that issuing warrants of arrest to all drug personalities would be next to impossible given the inefficiencies in the justice system.
"I have my oath. I will honor the Constitution. I will defend the Constitution to achieve--huwag ka maghanap ng--do not create a conflict there," the President said.
"Pag dumating panahon, we go to a crossroads. You decide. Di ako sunod diyan and please, please, please, please, do not create a confrontation, a constitutional war. Talo tayo lahat," he added.
Sereno said she found Duterte's pronouncement premature, fearing this may affect render the concerned judge "useless" in discharging his or her duties.
"Thus, this Court has been careful, all too aware that more often than not, a good reputation is the primary badge of credibility and the only legacy that many of our judges can leave behind," Sereno said.
She also advised judges not to surrender to authorities if there was no arrest warrant.
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