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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to impose "martial law" if the judiciary interferes with his ongoing anti-crime campaign, which has led to the death of hundreds since he took office. The warning came after Supreme Court Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno on Monday, August 8, 2016, questioned Duterte’s decision to release the names of judges accused of involvement in illegal drug trade. Sereno said only the court has the authority to oversee judges.
Sereno had told Duterte in a letter that it was her responsibility to punish judicial “misfits”, and that publicly naming them, especially without charges filed against them, had put their lives in danger. “To safeguard the role of the judges as the protector of constitutional rights, I would caution them very strongly against "surrendering" or making themselves physically accountable to any police officer in the absence of any... warrant of arrest”, Sereno added.
“Go ahead and try to stop me. Would you rather that I declared martial law ?” Duterte said while addressing soldiers during a visit to a military camp in the southern Philippines on Tuesday, August 9, 2016. “Let’s not kid each other ma’am, and do not force the issue”, he warned Sereno, adding, “You do not warn me. I warn you. I can order everyone in the executive department not to honor you”. “Please do not create a confrontation, a constitutional war. We will all lose”, the president said.
Duterte won the election in May 2016 on a platform of crushing crime. More than 100 suspects have been killed since the president launched his campaign against drug dealers and other criminals following his election. However, police confirmed in a new tally released Tuesday, August 9, the killing of 513 drug suspects, allegedly for resisting arrest. Civil rights campaigners have criticized police operations amid concerns that some of the dead suspects may have been summarily executed by the law enforcement officers. Police have also arrested more than 7000 drug suspects since Duterte took office.
In July 2016, Duterte named three of the country’s topmost drug lords and accused retired police official Marcelo Garbo of protecting drug traffickers.