Stop acting like a tyrant.
This it seems is what Atty. Mel Sta. Maria, Dean of the Far Eastern University (FEU) Institute of Law, is trying to tell President Rodrigo Duterte.
The law dean was reacting to the threat made by the president to order the military and police to arrest the officials of the Office of the Ombudsman if they fail to cooperate in the investigation of a commission that he said he will create for the specific purpose of probing the alleged partiality and corruption in the Ombudsman.
“I will create a commission, if you do not—I will apply for summons sa court, if hindi ninyo iyan ma-implement, I will, I will arrest you, ‘pag hindi ka sumipot doon sa commission na iyon. Pag hindi kayo sumipot, I will order the police and the military to arrest you,”
Duterte’s threat was made after it was publicly disclosed that the Ombudsman has started to investigate the real status and sources of wealth of the Duterte family which, based on the documents in the possession of the office, amounted to billions.
However, in a strong statement issued by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, she said that the constitutional office will not succumb to any pressure and threats.
“Sorry, Mr. President, but this Office shall not be intimidated,”
the Ombudsman said.
Dean Sta. Maria reminded the president that under our present legal system, it is only the courts of justice who can issue warrants of arrest. Even the president, the highest official in the land, cannot order the arrest of anyone without a court-issued warrant of arrest because the 1987 Constitution has removed such power from the executive branch.
Sta. Maria, also a professor in Ateneo Law School and a broadcaster, said that the nation has learned our lesson when the entire country was placed under martial law during the time of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. When Marcos was in power, the executive department issued Arrest, Search, Seizure Orders (ASSO) left and right and most of those arrested ended up detained indefinitely without a formal charge, or worse, were found dead or were never seen again.
The esteemed law dean also told Duterte that failure to attend or cooperate in the would-be investigation of the commission he plans to establish is not a crime since there is no penal law punishing the same.
Sta. Maria said that the president cannot invent laws just to implement his directive to arrest people he wants to be incarcerated. He added with a tinge of sarcasm that Duterte should not assume that he is the law because he is not a king.
Duterte was told that an arrest without a warrant and without a basis is a crime under the Revised Penal Code and no one, even the president of the country, is above the law.
The law dean encouraged the president to respect the constitution, follow the rule of law and be a good example to the citizens.
“Malinaw naman po ang Konstitution. Let us abide, sir, by the RULE OF LAW. Masmabuti na po na bilang presidente, kayo ang example ng leader na sumusunod sa batas. Let us follow sir,”
Sta. Maria ended his “reminders” to the president by saying that it is not right for a leader to threaten his own people to follow the laws and rules when he himself does not follow them or even commits a crime. That kind of leader, according to the dean, is also known as a despot.
Here is Sta. Maria’s statement.
The post which was shared last Friday has gone viral and was shared more than 1,400 times as of this writing.
It is both frightening and disgusting that the president, not only a lawyer but also a former prosecutor, needs to be lectured on the fundamental principles of constitutional law, the concept of the rule of law and the tenets of a democratic and republican State.
Maybe Duterte should have a refresher course in law school. To remind him that the president is not the law and that ours is a government of law and not of men.