The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has disputed President Duterte’s assertion that the military can arrest people without warrants under martial law.
Speaking to troops on Friday, the president said they could search homes and arrest people using arrest, search and seizure orders (Asso).
However, the CHR has said that the 1987 Constitution strictly prohibits warrantless arrests to prevent the sort of abuses seen under the martial law of President Marcos.
“There is legislation and protocol in place to ensure that the human rights abuses that have occurred in the past are not repeated,” the CHR said.
“Even during a state of martial law, the police and military personnel cannot issue or conduct warrantless arrests outside the circumstances provided under Section 5, Rule 113 of the Rules of Court.” (Which allows for warrantless arrests only when the arresting officer has witnessed or has personal knowledge of the facts of a crime, or when the suspect is an escaped prisoner.)
“Any arrest, search and seizure executed in the area where martial law is declared, including filing of charges, should comply with the revised rules of court and applicable jurisprudence,” the CHR statement said.
Even under martial law, the CHR added, those arrested or detained for offences related to lawless violence, rebellion or invasion should be released if not charged after three days.
Civilians cannot be tried in military tribunals and civil courts and legislative assemblies are still functional, the commission said.
“We call on our police force and military to place the utmost importance on the safety and rights of civilians,” the CHR said. “We must always keep our country’s dark past in mind so that history may not be repeated. Let us strive toward the resolution of this conflict.”
The CHR statement followed the president’s speech to troops in Iligan City on Friday, in which he said they could makes arrests even without a court warrant.
“During martial law, your commanders… you can arrest any person, search any house, without a warrant and only an Asso, which could be signed by [Armed Forces chief] General [Eduardo] Año,” he said.
Assos were widely used in the Marcos martial law years to detain political opponents.
The president’s words were a direct contradiction of an official government statement released on Saturday to explain martial law, which said: “Warrants of arrest or search warrants should be issued. No person may be arrested and detained without orders coming from these civil courts.”
In another speech on Saturday, the president told soldiers that he would disregard the Supreme Court and Congress if they opposed his declaration of martial law — despite clear provisions in the constitution.
He said: “Until the police and the armed forces say the Philippines is safe, this martial law will continue. I will not listen to others. The Supreme Court, Congress, they are not here.
“Are they the ones dying and losing blood, bleeding, haemorrhaging because there is no help, no reinforcement? It’s not them.”
The Constitution requires Congress to approve a president’s declaration of martial law, which is limited to 60 days. If a president wishes to extend it, congress must approve.
The Supreme Court can also rule on martial law’s legality.
“The Supreme Court will say they will examine into the factual (basis). Why I don’t know. They are not soldiers. They do not know what is happening on the ground,” Duterte said in the speech on Jolo Island.
The president has also described the nine years of military rule under Marcos as “very good”, and said his would be similar and “harsh”.