January 21, 2018, 3:17 am
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Duterte doesn’t rule out nationwide martial law

LET’S brace ourselves up for martial law, nationwide. President Duterte said it’s a possibility.

Persistent questioning by reporters elicited this admission from the President in a talk with reporters in Fort Bonifacio Wednesday after delivering a speech marking the ceremonial demilitarization of captured, confiscated, surrendered and recovered firearms during the Marawi rebellion.

To avoid misinterpreting the President convoluted justifications for extending martial law in Mindanao including this time the New People’s Army, GMA7’s Joseph Morong asked him, “You are not closing the door to a national martial law?”

Duterte replied, at this time, “All options are on the table. There’s only one rationale there, the existence of the Republic of the Philippines. You threaten the existence of the Republic of the Philippines. I am sure that everybody will react and do what he must do to prevent it.”

Earlier Wednesday, Congress, in a 240-27 vote, gave to Duterte what he asked for: another extension of martial law in Mindanao.

Duterte first declared martial law in Mindanao for 60 days on May 23 after the serving of a warrant of arrest to Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon turned into an intense firefight which would last five months. Last July 22, he asked for an extension until Dec. 31, 2017.

Last Oct. 23, the government declared the end of the war in Marawi. Focus now is on rehabilitation. But he still got a one-year extension of martial law in Mindanao, this time adding the threat of the New People’s Army as another justification.

The Movement Against Tyranny (MAT), an alliance of groups and individuals concerned about Duterte’s increasing authoritarianism, slammed the martial law extension saying it’s “patently unconstitutional and a threat to democracy and peace in the whole country.”

“It is unconstitutional because the proposed extension of martial law fails to meet the constitutional requirements of an actual rebellion or invasion, if public safety requires it, “the MAT said in a statement.

In the presscon, Maricel Halili of TV5 asked Duterte about the concerns of opposition lawmakers that the inclusion of the NPA as a justification for the extension of martial law in Mindanao could be a prelude to a nationwide martial law since the NPA is all over the country. She asked if there are “no plans for declaring martial law nationwide – only in Mindanao? “

Duterte did not say, “No.”

He said: “Well, it is up to the enemies of the state. If sabi ng NPA that they are recruiting in mass numbers, and they create trouble and they are armed and about to destroy government… ano, ang gobyerno will not wait until the dying… it said, the dying days of its existence. The government can always preempt and prevent that disaster. To what extent, what level of atrocities or attacks… it is not for me to say that – it is for the Armed Forces and the police.”

The MAT said martial law is not the right solution to the supposed heightened activities of the NPA: “(It) is better addressed through comprehensive peace negotiations rather than all-out war. Ironically, if the President did not arbitrarily terminate the peace talks with the NDFP last month, the fighting would have been significantly reduced, as what happened in the first six months of his term.”

MAT further said: “The Constitution does not contemplate martial law as a means to strengthen law enforcement, ensure public safety and security, conduct counterinsurgency campaigns, or address threats of lawless violence, however imminent. The President is already granted wide police powers and extraordinary calling out powers on the military for such purposes without having to declare martial law.”

“We fear that the President wants to use martial law to escalate his bloody anti-illegal drug and counterinsurgency campaigns, crack down on dissent and intimidate the public into submission. With the failure of his RevGov plot, it is likely that he is now reverting to his original plan to impose martial law nationwide in order to establish his very own dictatorship.”

Duterte does not even bother to allay these concerns.

***

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