Critics alarmed by Duterte’s martial law talk

MANILA: Critics and victims of military abuses expressed alarm on Friday after President Rodrigo Duterte said he wanted Philippine leaders to be able to wield martial law powers without judicial and congressional approval.
Duterte, a fiery populist politician who was elected by a landslide earlier this year largely on a vow to kill 100,000 criminals, has cultivated an image as a no-nonsense leader.
He has made reviving the death penalty in the mainly Catholic nation his top legislative priority as part of his war on crime, and has likened himself to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler as he said he was “happy to slaughter” three million drug users.
Speaking during a visit to the northern Philippines on Thursday, the 71-year-old lamented how the constitution tied the president’s hands in dealing with security crises including war. “If you have martial law, only one person should be in control,” Duterte said. “If there’s invasion or war and I declare martial law, I cannot proceed on and on to deal with the trouble as I still have to go to Congress, go to the Supreme Court,” he added.
“That’s why that needs to be replaced.”
The Philippines adopted a new constitution in 1987 to curtail presidential powers after millions of Filipinos took to the streets the year earlier in a famous “People Power” revolution, to oust dictator Ferdinand Marcos and end his 20-year rule.
Under the former leader, who imposed martial rule from 1972-1981 to fight crime and a communist insurgency, thousands were killed and tortured to suppress dissent, previous Philippine governments have said.
Today the president can impose martial rule for up to 60 days to stop invasion or rebellion, but parliament can revoke it within 48 hours, while the Supreme Court can also review its legality. — AFP