Vice President Leni Robredo's strong reaction describing President Rodrigo Duterte's recent statement on martial law as "appalling" may have been borne out of "misplaced" fear, a Malacañang official said Friday.

"The Vice President's fears may have, may be misplaced," Secretary Salvador Panelo, the chief presidential legal counsel, told reporters in Malacañang. "She may not have understood the context under which the President made the martial law statements."

In a statement, Robredo said it was appalling for Duterte to "challenge the democratic safeguards of the very constitution he swore to uphold.".

She was reacting to Duterte's remark where he spoke against the constitutional provisions mandating Congress and Supreme Court review of a president's declaration of martial law. Duterte said such review would make it difficult to implement martial law in emergency situations.

But according to Panelo, what Duterte meant was "that no president, not necessarily him, but all presidents succeeding after him, would be hostaged to the provisions of the Constitution where there will be so-called safeguards that will tie the hands of the President to do and to perform acts which are appropriate and necessary to quell, to suppress, and to stop violence that are destructive to the welfare of the people." 

"Under the Constitution, the primordial duty of the President as head of the government is to protect and serve the people," Panelo said. "That is the context by which the President made those statements."

"It doesn't mean that he will declare martial law. He has repeatedly said he will not," Panelo stressed.

He said if the review of the Supreme Court and Congress would be removed, the Filipinos themselves would be the safeguard when martial law is declared. 

"Tandaan mo 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," Panelo said.

"If you abuse, we're gonna hang you. Ganoon lang kasimple iyon. That's the safeguard. Tayo pa rin. We still have the voice. We will still decide. No president can decide for us. That's the long and short of it," he added.

Nonetheless, Panelo acknowledged the sentiments of Robredo, but pointed out that Duterte is a different man from late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who declared Martial Law in 1972 and whose regime has become infamous for it.

"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."

"Marcos was a good man, too good to his cronies. Not this man. 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," Panelo said.
Source: GMA

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