President Duterte is against martial law, Malacañang clarified last night as it assailed what it described as an “inaccurate reporting” of his remarks.
Wire agencies previously quoted Duterte as saying he would impose martial law if the drug problem became “very virulent,” just a month after dismissing as “nonsense” any suggestion he might do so.
Duterte, speaking to members of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce late Saturday, said he has sworn to protect the country against all threats, including drugs, which he said has affected about four million people.
“If I wanted to, and it will deteriorate into something really very virulent, I will declare martial law. No one can stop me,” he said, referring to the Supreme Court and Congress. “My country transcends everything else, even the limitations.”
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said in a statement that “the President has categorically said no to martial law. He even made a pronouncement saying that martial law did not improve the lives of the Filipinos.”
“We therefore decry the latest misreporting that the President will declare martial law simply ‘if he wants to’ or that ‘no one can stop the President from declaring martial law.’ Such headlines sow panic and confusion to many. We consider this kind of reportage as the height of journalistic irresponsibility,” he added.
Andanar said the President mentioned declaring martial law “only under the premise that the country has deteriorated into an utter state of rebellion and lawlessness.”
“As President, he recognizes the challenges and limitations set by our Constitution in declaring martial law but he would nonetheless act accordingly if it warrants the preservation of the nation,” he said.
In an interview last month, Duterte said he may declare martial only if there is an invasion from a foreign country.
“Maybe an invasion from other country but rebellion and insurrection, wala yan (that’s nothing),” he told ABS-CBN News Channel.
“Just declare war against them. You don’t have to declare a war against the Republic of the Philippines,” he added.
Duterte has made a brutal war on drugs a central pillar of his administration since he took office in June.
Since July, more than 6,000 people have been killed in the anti-drug campaign, in both police operations and unexplained killings by suspected “vigilantes.” More than one million drug peddlers and users have been arrested or have surrendered to authorities.
Duterte said that if people wanted the killings to stop, then terrorists should drop their guns and those in the illegal drugs trade to give it up.
Almost seven months into his administration and Duterte continues to be saddled with criticisms on the rising number of extrajudicial killings.
“You want no killings? You want a city with no military men, no patrol cars whatever? You want funeral parlors to go bankrupt? It’s easy. Drop your guns if you are a terrorist; drop the shabu tonight and tomorrow it will be heaven,” the President said.
He has no plans of letting up in his fight against the illegal drug trade, pointing out that the industry has flourished over the years making the Philippines a “narco” state.
The Philippines endured a decade of martial law from the early 1970s and memories of campaigns to restore democracy and protect human rights are fresh in the minds of many people.
Last month, Duterte appeared to rule out any possibility he might declare martial law saying, “That’s nonsense. We had martial law before, what happened? Did it improve our lives now? Not at all.”
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman cautioned the President against declaring martial rule, citing the restrictive provisions of the Constitution that limits it.
“President Duterte’s threat to declare martial law is a menacing pendulum from outright denial to a veiled intention,” the opposition lawmaker said.
He reminded Duterte, who is a lawyer, that the Constitution requires that “the basis for the declaration of martial law is the existence of an invasion or rebellion, when public safety requires it.” – With Reuters, Jess Diaz, Edith Regalado