PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncement to declare a Martial Law if the judiciary continues to intervene in his drug war is merely “rhetorical” as he fully knows the limits of his executive powers, a Palace official said on Wednesday.

“The President merely asked a rhetorical question and said it under the context that his anti-drug campaign cannot wait for the slow wheels of justice – Philippine style,” Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said in a statement.

Andanar issued the statement a day after the President cautioned Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno of declaring a Martial law, if she would continue to oppose his method of stamping out the rampant drug sale in the country.

“I am not fool. If this continues, if you stop me and all breaks loose, or would you rather that I declare Martial Law? Filipinos are being killed. I grieve for so many Filipinos raped, men killed, infants raped, then you’ll counter me?” Duterte said in his speech in Cagayan de Oro that was addressed to Sereno.

Despite the President’s announcement, Andanar said Duterte recognizes the separation of powers and was only asking Sereno not to create a "constitutional crisis."

Andanar also reiterated that Duterte had called out the names of the judges on the list to give them the chance to defend themselves and clear their names.

He said the President knows his limitations and stressed that the latter would not do anything to undermine the powers of the judiciary and the legislative branches, as well as to infringe upon the people’s rights.

“The President has made use of executive powers at his disposal, knowing fully well the limits of these powers, and without undermining the constitutional separation of powers nor infringing upon the rights of citizens,” he said.

“The President’s primary concern is to deliver effective action to the people… Not everybody will applaud him for his audacity but the President is putting his life, his honor, and the presidency at stake,” Andanar added. (Sunnex)