Former presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda slammed Senator Richard “Dick” Gordon for considering the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.
“Congrats to the new Senate Justice Committee head. In lieu of defending our rights, he will endeavor to suspend the writ of habeas corpus,” Lacierda said in his tweet on Monday, September 19.
Congrats to the new Senate Justice Committee head. In lieu of defending our rights, he will endeavor to suspend the writ of habeas corpus!
— Edwin Lacierda (@dawende) September 19, 2016
His tweet came after it was announced that Gordon was voted to replace Senator Leila de Lima as the chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Sixteen senators voted in favor of ousting de Lima as the Senate committee chair.
Gordon earlier said that Duterte should be given the authority to suspend the writ of habeas corpus – which would allow warrantless arrests – to stop terrorism and illegal drugs. He added that Duterte’s declaration of state of lawlessness is not enough to stop the security problems in the country.
However, Gordon’s proposal came after Duterte’s proclamation of the state of emergency, which already allowed warrantless arrests of violators, prison escapees, and surrenderees.
“We are at war with drugs right now… If he has to suspend the writ of habeas corpus to fight drugs and terrorism, let’s give him that power so we won’t just keep saying people are getting killed, but that can’t be proven,” Gordon said.
“It’s better to say arrest people who should be arrested. Instead of pretending that we really want to get rid of drugs, let’s go straight, let’s give him the chance, but with Congress in control of the situation,” Gordon added.
The senator cited that the Constitution has allowed the extension of this type of authority “in cases of war or national emergencies.”
“Congress may even extend the declaration of the national emergency subject to rules it may deem fit up to a certain time in a limited period,” he said.
“Let’s let him declare the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, so that if they have to arrest someone, they can arrest and investigate promptly,” he added.
Asked if what he was suggesting is similar to martial law, Gordon said: “Let’s not be afraid of martial law. This is limited to drugs. Do we want to go back to how it was before? On the one hand, when someone does something, we get angry at him. And if nothing is being done, that’s also OK with us,” Gordon said.
Gordon added that he was merely “protecting the public” because expanding authority through the control of the Congress would protect the public against abuses.
According to CNN Philippines “What is the writ of habeas corpus?” article, the writ of habeas corpus has the following meaning:
“In English, the Latin phrase habeas corpus means “that you have the body.” When the Supreme Court, which has jurisdiction over habeas corpus petitions, issues the writ, it commands an individual or a government official who has restrained another individual to produce the prisoner at a designated time and place so that the Court can determine whether the prisoner’s custody is legal or not. If it isn’t, then the prisoner must be released. In other words, the writ is a safeguard against warrantless arrests and illegal detention.”
Once the writ of habeas corpus is suspended, law enforcers will have the power to arrest anybody even without warrant and may be the root cause of extended periods of detention even without charges.