That was how the President’s chief legal counsel described the reaction of Vice President Leni Robredo on the possible return of martial law.
“The Vice President’s fears maybe misplaced. She may have not understood the context under which the President made the martial law statements,” chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo told reporters in a chance interview on Friday.
Duterte on Thursday said he wanted the declaration of martial law to be the prerogative of the chief executive without the approval of Congress and the Supreme Court.
Robredo voiced her dissent to Duterte’s “appalling” statement, saying that she was prepared to go to battle against the return of dictatorship.
To clarify Duterte’s martial law comment, Panelo said: “What the President means is no president, not him but all presidents succeeding after him would be hostage to the provisions of the Constitution where there will be the so called safeguards where the president can do any acts that are appropriate and necessary to do, to suppress and to stop violence that is destructive to the welfare people,” he said.
Panelo cited the Constitution, saying “the primordial duty of the President as head of the government is to protect and serve the people.”
“That is the context by which the President made these statements. It doesn’t mean that he will declare martial law; he repeatedly said he will not,” he said.
If the Constitution would be amended to give Duterte the sole power to declare martial law, he said the public would be the safeguard against abuses.
“Tandaan mo [remember] the political decision made by the President is subject to the political decision of the entire people. We have ousted Marcos. We have jailed Erap [former President and incumbent Mayor Joseph Estrada]. So, the tolerance of the Filipino people has certain limits,” he said.
“If you abuse, we’re gonna hang you. Ganoon lang kasimple iyon (It’s that simple). That’s the safeguard. Tayo pa rin (We prevail). We still have the voice. We will still decide. No president can decide for us. That’s the long and short of it,” Panelo added.
Panelo, however, acknowledged the fears of Robredo.
“I know where this is coming from. I could understand the fears of those victims of martial law. But we need to consider the character of this man,” he said, referring to Duterte. “The man cannot tolerate any violation of any law, is so outraged by any oppression. So you have to consider the character of the man,” he said.
He said Duterte was different from former president Ferdinand Marcos, who declared martial law in 1972.
“Marcos was a good man, too good to his cronies. Not this man (Duterte). This man will fire his close friend if he does anything wrong in the relation to his performance if his duty as a Cabinet member,” he said.