The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has added his voice to the ongoing debate on the state of emergency. He said the President has all rights to exercise a range of powers and to curtail rights available to citizens and residents under the Constitution.
“We must note, however, that during a state of emergency, the Constitution authorizes the President to exercise a range of powers and to curtail certain rights otherwise available to citizens and residents of this nation during normal times,” Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor said when he delivered his charge to lawyers and judges at the opening of the October Term of the High Court on Monday.
The Chief Justice declared: “We urge all citizens and foreign nationals residing in our country to be cognizant of the limitations on the exercise of certain constitutional and statutory rights during this period of the state of emergency,” adding that “They must remain cautions, alert and obey all measures declared and enunciated to fight the Ebola virus.”
Delving into the constitution, Chief Justice Korkpor said, “while our constitution provides for a government with three co-equal branches, each with separate powers and functions, it is absolutely essential that these branches coordinate and cooperate with one another during the critical period of our nation to achieve the common goal of eradicating the Ebola virus.”
Cooperation by the three branches of government, the Chief Justice noted, did not mean that any one branch will relinquish any of its powers to one or the other two branches.
“It does not mean for example, that the Judiciary will not perform its traditional role as a disinterested and impartial arbiter of disputes, whether such disputes are between the other two branches of government or between one and two of them, and one or more or two or more private citizens,” he explained.
He said that each branch must work in harmony with the other branches just as ordinary citizens of the country with different backgrounds and persuasions are required to work together to eradicate the virus.
“After all, there can be no Legislative, no Executive or Judiciary Branch of Government, if the virus overwhelms us all. We must first act to survive as a people, government and country before we can even talk of the separation of our branches of government,” he counseled.