Palace: Duterte not interfering with the court

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 04 2019 04:06 PM

MANILA - It’s persuasion, not interference.

Malacañang on Monday denied that President Rodrigo Duterte interfered with the judiciary when the chief executive himself admitted Sunday that he made a “call” to let the court allow Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chair Nur Misuari to travel abroad.

In a speech during the campaign rally of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino - Lakas ng Bayan in Zamboanga City on Sunday, March 3, Duterte said he asked the military and the court to allow Misuari to travel.

“Now Misuari came to me sa opisina ko the other night because he wanted to go out. He was not allowed, tapos may kaso siya. Kinausap ko ang police pati military pati ang korte na palabasin muna siya. Ako ang nag-guarantee that he will come back,” Duterte said.

(Now, Misuari came to my office the other night because he wanted to go out, he was not allowed because he has a case. I talked to the police, the military and the court to allow him to leave. I guaranteed that he will come back.)

Misuari, who is facing charges of malversation and graft over the anomalous purchase of textbooks from 2002 to 2005 in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), was allowed by the Sandiganbayan’s Third Division last February 26 to travel to attend the 46th session of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation's (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on March 1 and 2.

The MNLF leader will stay in the UAE until March 11 and then attend the 14th session of the Parliamentary Union of OIC Member States in Rabat, Morocco on March 13 and 14.

The court granted Misuari’s travel request a day after the MNLF leader met with Duterte in Malacañang. In a speech a day after the meeting, the President shared that he made "arrangements" for Misuari’s travel.

“Sabi ko, this is a personal request of me, which I do not do at any time, at any other time. Sabi ko, papasukin --- ah palabasin ninyo. Sabi ko, for the sake of --- alam mo na because I still have to craft --- we in government,” Duterte said during a general assembly of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines at the Manila Hotel last Feb. 26.

Asked whether Duterte’s actions amount to interference with the court and a violation of the separation of powers of the independent branches of government, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the President was just using his persuasive powers to fulfill his role of protecting and serving the people.

Panelo said the President may have merely sought to inform the court that Misuari is a crucial element in the Mindanao peace process.

He added the President may not be the one who personally made the call.

“Baka he’s referring to somebody who will relay the message to the courts. I don’t see anything wrong with that. Kung kailangan ng isang presidente na makiusap sa bawat sangay — and after all itong tatlong sangay na ito dapat magtulungan para sa bansa natin — hindi naman pwedeng inflexible ang isang branch kung ang magiging consequence ng inflexibility ay kasiraan ng ating lahi,” he said.

(Maybe he was referring to someone who relayed his message to the courts. I don’t see anything wrong with that. If the President needs to appeal to the other branches — after all these three branches should help each other because one cannot be inflexible especially if such inflexibility will result in the damage of the nation.)

“I don’t think the courts will allow itself to be coerced or intimidated by any person in this country,” he added.

The President has repeatedly said in his speeches that he never interferes in the affairs of other government agencies, including government contracts and projects.

He has also sought to appease Misuari, whose MNLF faction still wields influence in the country’s south despite being sidelined in the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, a new region in Mindanao replacing the ARMM which is granted with more powers and greater fiscal autonomy.