Duterte threatens to declare 'revolutionary government'

MANILA • Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has warned that he is prepared to establish a "revolutionary government" to fend off alleged efforts to oust him, fuelling fears of a looming dictatorship.

He issued the warning on state television late last Friday, as he railed against the press, European lawmakers and other critics of his drug war that has left thousands dead and led rights groups to warn of a crime against humanity.

Mr Duterte said he would resort to a revolutionary government, as opposed to martial law that would require congressional approval, if communists and other opponents tried to destabilise his rule. "If your destabilisation is taking place and there is chaos already, I will not hesitate to declare a revolutionary government until the end of my term and I will arrest all of you and we can go to a full-scale war against the Reds," he said, referring to communist rebels who have waged a nearly 50-year insurgency.

Mr Duterte cited the precedent set by Mrs Corazon Aquino, who established a revolutionary government soon after leading a "People Power" uprising in 1986 that ended the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. Mrs Aquino sacked all elected officials, abolished Congress and tore up the 1973 Constitution in favour of a provisional charter. She handpicked a commission to write a new Constitution, which was ratified by plebiscite in 1987 and paved the way for elections. Many Filipinos continue to see her as a heroine of democracy.

Under the Constitution, presidents are limited to a single term of six years.

Mr Duterte's critics fear the 72-year-old, who has threatened to impose martial law, is intent on dragging the country back into dictatorship and allow himself more freedom in pursuing his drug war.

He issued the warning on state television late last Friday, as he railed against the press, European lawmakers and other critics of his drug war that has left thousands dead and led rights groups to warn of a crime against humanity.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 15, 2017, with the headline 'Duterte threatens to declare 'revolutionary government''. Print Edition | Subscribe