- Presidential spokesman clarified Duterte’s martial law remarks aimed at CJ Sereno
- He said Duterte respects the separation of powers between the executive and judiciary
- He also said the president is just doing his duty to uphold the Constitution
MANILA, Philippines – Seeking to allay fears of martial law, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said President Rodrigo Duterte’s remarks aimed at Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno should not be taken to mean a disrespect for a coequal branch of government.
According to Andanar, Duterte actually respects the independence of the judiciary, being a lawyer himself.
“The President is a member of the bar who believes in the rule of law and advocates for judicial independence. As President, he has the sworn duty to uphold and defend the Constitution,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Andanar said proof of the president’s respect for the judiciary is his ordering the judges in his narco-list to report to the Supreme Court and not to any executive official.
“The words and action of the President all point to these. When the President referred the named judges on his consolidated list to the Supreme Court, he was acknowledging the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court over the judges,” he said. “He recognizes the separation of powers, and even asked the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court not to create a constitutional crisis.”
In her letter, Sereno reminded Duterte that the Supreme Court, not the president, can order judges to report to it any time in view of its administrative supervision over the judiciary. She also advised the named judges who have been since placed under administrative investigation after deciding to treat Duterte’s expose as a formal complaint not to surrender to the police in the absence of an arrest warrant.
In response, Duterte threatened Sereno he would declare martial law if the high tribunal meddled with his anti-drug campaign.
Howver, Andanar also explained that the president was merely being rhetorical and that his statement should be viewed in context with his personality as an “action man” who wants to get things done quickly.