Duty-bound

IT’S BEEN ON his mind since the campaign, and he clearly means to do it. On October 13, a peeved Rodrigo Duterte again threatened to declare a revolutionary government, this time to deal with “destabilizers” once and for all.

On his Facebook wall, former solicitor general Florin Hilbay cited the legal definition of a revolutionary government, then qualified it with this caution: “In the Philippines, the President will be totally free from any constitutional constraints… The President’s threat of imposing a revolutionary government is the single most destabilizing act that can be committed: the murder of the Constitution.”

Duterte knows it’s a tricky option. Before the elections, he admitted that the move was “anti-democratic;” but he saw it as a means “to change society.” Now he aims to use it against the “yellows” and “reds” who are blocking his way. Fine. Can he?

LEGAL (MIS)ADVISOR

Presidential legal advisor Salvador Panelo says yes, he can. “If there is any move that will bring down the government, then the Constitution directs him, instructs him…to do something about it. Declaring a revolutionary government would be one of them,” he explained to GMA News. Some days later, he told ABS-CBN that the fact of Duterte’s election authorized him to pronounce a revolutionary government. “The electorate factored that in and when he was voted overwhelmingly, the electorate gave him the overwhelming mandate to declare a revolutionary government if there is a need for that,” he said.

Better lawyers than Panelo (and there are many) have disputed these views, challenging him to cite the provisions that “direct and instruct” Duterte to usurp the mighty powers of government. Panelo’s position has also been struck by Christian Monsod, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, who drily remarked that Duterte was “not voted by our people to be a dictator.”

Duterte is little served by Panelo, but he made his bed – let him lie in it. It’s an outrage, though, that this Grima Wormtongue is being paid with taxpayers’ money to twist our laws to their skewed perspectives.

CALL TO DUTY

If Duterte mounts a revolution in his mind and changes government, what happens next? Well, he would be pitting himself against the Constitution.

Magdalo representative Gary Alejano says, “Given the current context, declaring a revolutionary government is practically abolishing the Constitution and essentially concentrating all the powers to a dictator, allowing him to run the country by himself. This is a direct assault to the Constitution.”

He continues, “Whoever pursues the revolutionary government should be considered enemies of the state and must be arrested by the state forces. The AFP and the PNP are mandated to defend the Constitution and to protect the people and the State.”

Is this a valid stance?

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The Oath of Enlistment from the Articles of War of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (R.A. No. 242).

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Screenshot from PNP Police Regional Office 10 website.  

Both the AFP Oath of Enlistment and the PNP Police Officer’s Pledge bind the candidate to “support and defend” and “uphold” the Constitution as a matter of obligation. This is violated on pain of sanction to the ultimate degree.

The armed forces and the police must obey national authorities. But if the president issues a dubious directive, what then? Then they must flout it. Their obedience depends not on his ascendancy but on the legality of what he is obliging them to do. They are duty-bound to protect the people from traitors.

I agree with Rep. Alejano. Our present Constitution makes no provision for a revolutionary government. By definition, it is the result of a popular uprising and cannot be premeditated by our Charter. If Duterte forces the issue and creates that animal, he will be in excess of his authority and should be arrested. If Panelo argues that Duterte is immune from suit, then an impeachment complaint for culpable violation of the Constitution is warranted. Either way, Duterte will be accountable.

That is assuming that the co-equal branches of government and our security forces will stand their ground and not allow themselves to be bullied into oblivion. Will our government defend us or kowtow to the president who would be king?

I am calling on the Legislature, the Judiciary, the AFP and the PNP to back the people’s cause. Hear our plea: reinstate the rule of law; check its erosion. Remember that “Public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must, at all times, be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency; act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives”(Art. XI, Sec. 1, 1987 Constitution).  Instead of submitting to an unhinged chief, you should shield us from his frenzy.

Despite Panelo’s mind-conditioning, the public remains lucid and resistant. We absolutely reject the proposed revolutionary government. Stop wasting time on deranged schemes, Mr. President. Work on the economy, the transport crisis, the peace and order situation, the restoration of justice, the protection of our borders, the eradication of terrorism, and the investigation of that humongous shabu shipment. And while you’re at it, Digong, be that macho man you want us all to think you are and #SignTheWaiver.

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WHAT THE PEOPLE WANT. Screenshots of comments on Rep. Gary Alejano’s post.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! – Isaiah 5:20 

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