Sen. Gordon to file for suspension of habeas corpus powers for Duterte to avoid Martial Law

Senator Richard Gordon (Photo:

By Macon Araneta | FilAm Star Correspondent

Sen. Richard Gordon said he would like Congress to grant President Rodrigo Duterte emergency powers, including the authority to suspend the writ of habeas corpus because he believes the provisions for warrantless arrest under a state of emergency are not enough.
“We will ask him (Duterte) to certify it. If he doesn’t want to certify it, it’s nothing. But I will fight for it,” said Gordon, while insisting that he is trying to protect the public here. He guaranteed there will be safety measures to curb abuses.

Gordon said he doesn’t care if nobody among his colleagues will support the bill. He will file to suspend the writ of habeas corpus.” I don’t care. If they want to support it,” said Gordon, who said he has yet talk to the President about his plan.

“The whole world knows that there is such law, we are in an emergency. How can tourists come here? How can there be investments here?”

Gordon stressed he is pushing to give the President emergency powers because he does not want him to declare Martial Law.

“Do you want him to declare Martial Law? I don’t. I want him to be in control. This is the separation of powers clause. That’s why it was placed there. I will pre-empt him. We might wake up the next day when there is no more Congress. It would be worse with a revolutionary government,” said Gordon.

Gordon recalled hearing Duterte said he can declare a revolutionary government. He heard it and that disturbed him.

“And when you see that he’s been going around the (military) camps … I’d rather have Congress be in control than one man. I’m not saying he’s going do it. I’m just using the law.”
“I know in my heart he is sincere in his drive against drugs and the Abu Sayff Group. But there should be a balance. I’d rather draft the restrictions than he dictates to me what are the restrictions. I’m talking about Congress creating the restrictions. There is always a possibility of abuse. That’s a possibility,” explained the chair of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee.

If his proposed bill will be approved, Gordon said it will boost the President’s proclamation on the state of lawlessness.

Since they participated in it, Gordon said it is no longer just a unified act by the President because he can proclaim lawless violence, call the military, and that’s his prerogative
Sen. Leila De Lima said she is in disbelief that somebody would plan to file a resolution for the suspension of the privilege writ of habeas corpus.

She believes that the declaration of national emergency on the account of stateless violence, which she finds justified, although she has reservations in the implementing guidelines, including additional ground for warrantless arrest, and also for warrantless search and seizure.

“And then we are just in a few days after the declaration of national emergency with the implementation of call-out powers, and then here we are, we are contemplating…or somebody or some people are contemplating on the possible suspension of the writ of habeas corpus,” said De Lima.

She said habeas corpus basically is the power of the court to require the State in general to produce before the court the physical body of a person in its custody, whether detained legally or illegally. She said the privilege of the writ is the remedy of a petitioner to question the legality of the detention and to ask the court to order the release of the body in the event that his detention is illegal, e.g. arrested without warrant.

“Suspension of the writ means that the court can still ask the State to produce the body, but it can no longer inquire into the legality of the arrest or detention. In short, anybody can be arrested without a warrant and the legality of the arrest cannot be immediately questioned via a petition for habeas corpus, but maybe in some other later proceeding,” also said de Lima.

The former justice secretary considered really “alarming” Gordon’s plan because she knows that the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is similar to Martial Law. Now, she said the grounds are limited to only two: invasion or rebellion.

“Now, if he (Gordon) is citing this so-called war against drugs. That should only be a figure of speech– the war against drugs. In fact, sometimes, I avoid using that phrase—war against drugs. I’d rather use the phrase ‘intensified campaign’ or ‘intensified drive against illegal drugs,” stressed De Lima.

She said it cannot be war because it will amount to rebellion which is laughable. If would seem that in the war against drugs, we’re contemplating here, combatant forces, military, police force and security forces.

“And who are the enemies? Those involved as drugs like drug lords, etc., etc. So literally. So we should go slow,” said De Lima who had conducted two hearings on the alleged extra-judicial killings during the police anti-drug operations that claimed over 2,400 lives.
De Łima said to first look at the outcome of the declaration of national emergency on account of a lawless violence and how they are going to implement it.

She said this might be effective and there would no longer be a need for the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus since it is just like Martial Law.

“What are we having here? A creeping martial law, a creeping authoritarianism?” she asked, vowing to fight it once it is brought to the Senate floor.

Reacting on the recent Palace proclamation, De Lima sees there’s enough justification
although she believes it would be much better if it was implemented first in Mindanao where the bombing incident occurred.

“The premise here—are all these incidents validated and occurring, or occurred in the area of Mindanao? So it would be better if it were first implemented in Mindanao. But we can also give them the benefit of doubt when they say that these acts of terrorism are expected or may spill over the rest of the country, especially in metropolitan areas like the National Capital Region,” she said.

She also believes that Duterte’s proclamation would be defensible if questioned before the Supreme Court.

Under the Constitution, Drilon noted that the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus can be suspended only in cases of rebellion or invasion and when public safety requires it.
In other words, he said it’s the same grounds as in the case of a declaration of Martial Law. But he insisted that the grounds are limited under the Constitution.

“They’re just the same, martial law or suspension of writ of habeas corpus must be anchored on the same grounds,” said Drilon, also a former justice secretary.