Int'l groups to PH: Obey Constitution amid martial law

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 25) — International groups called on the Philippine government to safeguard Filipinos' rights under the 1987 Constitution even as martial law is declared in Mindanao.

"The Philippine Constitution contains guarantees for the protection of human rights and civil liberties during martial rule," Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement on Wednesday.

"We call upon the administration – as well as the Congress and the courts – to ensure that these important protections remain in force," the HRW added.

Amnesty International (AI) said the Philippine government should "ensure a clear timetable for an end to martial law."

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23, following clashes between government troops and the Maute terror group in Marawi City in Lanao del Sur. Duterte also suspended the privilege of writ of habeas corpus, allowing warrantless arrests for those connected to rebellion in Mindanao.

Read: Marawi crisis timeline

Unlike the 1935 Constitution which was in place during the regime of late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, today's laws place checks and balances on the implementation of martial law.

Previously, there was no set time limit for the President to impose military rule, allowing Marcos to enforce it from 1972 to 1981.

The 1987 Constitution states that martial law can be imposed for up to 60 days only.

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The 1987 Constitution is "one significant obstacle" to prevent Duterte from "becoming the next Marcos." HRW Legal and Policy Director James Ross, in another statement on Wednesday said.

Duterte said the martial law in Mindanao would be "harsh," likening it to the one declared by Marcos in 1972.

But Duterte promised there would be no abuses of any kind under his watch.

Marcos allegedly committed human rights abuses, ordered extra-judicial killings, and acquired ill-gotten wealth during his rule.

No to 'culture of impunity'

Both the HRW and the AI expressed concern over possible rights abuses under the Duterte administration's martial rule.

AI said the "culture of impunity" in the Philippines "has increased under President Duterte."

HRW reiterated this, saying the President "does not have a good track record" on human rights in light of the alleged extrajudicial killnigs linked to his almost one-year-old war against drugs.

"The lawlessness of President Duterte's 'war on drugs' heightens grave concerns that his declaration of martial law in Mindanao will bring further rampant abuses," HRW said.

AI is also calling on Duterte to repeal his suspension of the privilege of writ of habeas corpus.

Read: Duterte suspends privilege of writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao

"This right is an essential safeguard against arbitrary deprivation of liberty, which under international human rights law is non-derogable, that is, it cannot be denied even in times of emergency," the AI said.

Under the 1987 Constitution, people may be arrested without warrant only in cases of alleged rebellion. They should be charged within three days or authorities would have to let them go.

CNN Philippines' VJ Bacungan contributed to this report.