Congress to check basis for suspension of writ of habeas corpus only if declared says Speaker Alvarez

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MANILA, Philippines — Congress will scrutinize whether there is enough basis for President Rodrigo Duterte to suspend the writ of habeas corpus — but only when he actually does so, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said Monday.

But more lawmakers voiced their opposition to the idea broached by Duterte last week, saying he might need to suspend the writ if “lawlessness and rebellion” persist in Mindanao.

“The suspension of the privilege of the writ is not necessary or legally allowed on the basis of lawlessness, as the 1987 Constitution limits the grounds only to invasion or rebellion and when public safety requires it,” Bayan Muna party-list Representative Carlos Zarate said.

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Akbayan party-list Representative Tom Villarin also cautioned the administration against toying with the Constitution. “All it takes is an accusing finger, and people can start disappearing. Even if there is no proof people can be arrested without warrants, and this can only lead to more deaths,” he said.

In a television interview, Alvarez said Congress would confront the issue only once Duterte does suspend the writ, which protects people from arbitrary arrest and detention. Through the writ, a court can order authorities to present a person in custody.

“Saka na natin tatalakayin iyan kapag ginawa na talaga ng Presidente iyon at titingnan natin kung ang pagdeklara ng suspensyon ng writ of habeas corpus ay mayroong sapat na basehan. Pero sa ngayon mahirap po ang mag-speculate (Let us tackle the matter once the President actually does it and we shall see if the declaration of the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus has sufficient basis. But for now it is difficult to speculate),” he said.

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“Kung talaga namang kinakailangan, bakit hindi ilulusot? At kung hindi naman kailangan, talagang hindi lulusot iyan. As I’ve said before, hindi naman tayo rubber stamp ng Malakanyang (It is really need, why shouldn’t we allow it? And if it is not needed, it will not really prosper. As I’ve said before, we are not a rubber stamp of Malacanang),” he added.

Article VII, Section 18 of the Constitution allows the president to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus for not more than 60 days, “in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it.”

Congress, voting jointly, may revoke the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus by a vote of at least a majority of all its members in regular or special session. The vote cannot be set aside by the President.

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The Supreme Court may also review the factual basis for suspending the writ on the petition of a citizen.

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