Duterte: Change charter now to avert coup

By CNN Philippines Staff

President Rodrigo Duterte has warned of a possible coup d’état if the Constitution remains unchanged.

Di ba sabi niya, ‘You better amend the Constitution habang nandito pa ako, habang napapakiusapan ko pa ang Armed Forces,'” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a media briefing Tuesday, quoting the President.

[Translation: “Did he not say, ‘You better amend the Constitution while I’m still here, while I can still plead with the Armed Forces.'”]

He was explaining a part of the President’s speech Monday night where he renewed his call for charter change.

Sabi ko, ‘If you want to change the Constitution, do it now. Nandiyan pa ako.’ And I can tell the military, “No, no, no. You better ano…” Kasi ang military mainit na. And I have told you all the corruption sa gobyerno, ang pinakamalaki nandiyan sa itaas,” Duterte said in a speech at the oath-taking of new officials in Malacañang.

[Translation: “I said, ‘If you want to change the Constitution, do it now. I’m still here.’ And I can tell the military, ‘No, no, no. You better… Because tempers are rising in the military. And I have told you all the corruption in the government, it’s worse in the higher positions.'”]

Panelo said top military officials may have told their commander-in-chief about the growing dissatisfaction amongst the troops, supposedly because of the country’s problems, including corruption, and because the Constitution has yet to be amended. Just last week, both the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police reiterated they have no plans of ousting Duterte, as the President again brought the matter up.

Armed Forces of the Philippines Spokesperson Edgar Arevalo, in a statement on Tuesday, reassured the public that the military “shall remain loyal to the flag, to the constitution, and to the Filipino people.” 

It is not clear what changes in the charter are being proposed to specifically solve corruption, drugs, terrorism and other problems supposedly raised by the military. When asked about it, Panelo gave two unrelated examples: the removal of restrictions to foreign investments, and the solution to EDSA traffic which the President could not do because of “constraints.”

Duterte had a joint command conference with the military and police Monday night, but the Palace has yet to say if the issue was discussed.

Panelo said the President could resort to extreme measures as his last “card” if the country’s problems continue to worsen.

Maraming pwede siyang gawin (He can do a lot of things), he can impose martial law, he can declare a revolutionary government, he can use other emergency powers,” Panelo said.

The President has said he would not place the entire country under military rule. The Palace also earlier dismissed the President’s threat to declare a revolutionary government as an expression of exasperation. The Duterte administration has requested Congress for emergency powers to solve Metro Manila traffic, but this has not been granted as some lawmakers expressed concern it may be prone to abuse.

CNN Philippines’ Ina Andolong contributed to this report.

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