SECTIONS
Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Espinoza: Knee-jerk reaction?

UNDER our statutes and most importantly our 1987 Constitution, every person enjoys the presumption of innocence until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt of a crime charged.

Former Cebu City mayor Mike Rama and those in the list that President Duterte exposed as drug coddlers don’t have to defend themselves because they are presumed innocent. The law does not prevent them though from voluntarily confessing to their crime.

I beg to disagree with the statement of Cebu City Police Director Joel Doria that Supt. Romeo Santander, one of those in the list, “has all the time to defend himself, there’s no problem.”

This is not to defend those who are in the list, but for purposes of academic discussion, what is there for them to defend? President Duterte even issued a disclaimer that those in the list may not be correct.

Let’s not forget that allegations are not itself formal accusations. Some of those in the list could be as guilty as those who have already been charged and convicted but they are not yet charged of a criminal offense in court.

It’s about time that the police and the National Prosecution Service of the Department of Justice start filing criminal cases against these suspected drug lords and protectors so the world would know that our government abides by the country's laws and obeys its Constitution.

***

I was still half asleep yesterday when I heard from the GMA TV morning news that President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to declare martial law if the Supreme Court hinders his administration’s strong campaign against illegal drugs.

The President, as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces may, under Section 18, Article VIII, place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law in case of invasion or rebellion or when the public safety requires it, for a period not exceeding 60 days.

However the President, within 48 hours from the proclamation of martial law, is required to submit a report to Congress. Congress, voting jointly and by a vote of at least a majority of all its members in regular or special session, may revoke such proclamation and the President cannot set aside the revocation.

The President may have overlooked the point that in the same provision the Supreme Court, on a petition filed by a citizen, could review the sufficiency of the factual basis of the proclamation of martial law and shall promulgate its decision within 30 days from its filing.

With due respect, President Duterte’s knee-jerk reaction is misplaced because the letter of Supreme court Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno merely inquired as to the basis of the derogatory information against the judges, some of whom have retired, were dismissed or were already dead.

The SC, having administrative and operational supervision over judges, has the right to know the basis of the report for it to investigate. This was the tenor of Chief Justice Sereno’s letter. It was not meant to thwart the drive against illegal drugs.

It’s not surprising that President Duterte would want to declare martial law. During the election campaign, he repeatedly said he would close Congress and declare martial law if Congress does not cooperate with him if he is elected president.

The President’s latest verbal tirade brings to mind his recent visits to all the military camps in the country promising the soldiers salary increases, providing them with the latest combat gears and improving the military hospitals.

Is the President preparing the Armed Forces for his plan to declare martial law if the police would be unable to put an end to the illegal drugs trade within the six months period that the President promised? The signs are getting clearer.

I was a teenager when the late president Ferdinand E. Marcos declared martial law on Sept. 21, 1972. Some of those in Congress and almost everyone my age experienced what military rule was in those dark years.

Again, I declare here that I strongly support the President’s campaign against illegal drugs. However, let’s not fail to remember that we are still a nation of laws and not of men.
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