IN the almost four years of his administration, President Duterte many times floated the idea of declaring martial law.
He revived it again last April 16 while talking about the need for discipline in the implementation of the lockdown he has ordered to stop the spread of COVID-19 that has already infected more than 9,500 and claimed the lives of more than 600 in the country.
His threat is that if people continue to violate quarantine rules, he “might have to declare martial law.”
‘The statements of Duterte, Roque and Panelo rhyme. There must be a reason.’
He later added to the justification of his plan to declare martial law the alleged attacks of the New People’s Army, which the rebel group denied.
Last Monday, a bizarre justification for the declaration of martial law was provided by his chief Presidential counsel, Salvador Panelo.
In a video commentary, Panelo said, “May bagonang international meaning ang invasion…It can mean the entry of a disease and the transfer from one area to another.”
“Ano bang meronngayon (What do we have now)? There is an actual invasion of the coronavirus disease which is pandemic,” he said.
Panelo’s argument was unbelievably outrageous that Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra had to issue a statement: “In the context of martial law, ‘invasion’ refers to invasion of a country by foreign armed forces. This is analogous to the other ground for declaring martial law, i.e., rebellion, which is an armed uprising against the government by its own citizens. Both terms refer to armed actions by human beings, not by non-living things like viruses.”
We cannot take lightly, however, Panelo’s theory of invasion by a virus to declare martial law because there seems to be a pattern towards that in the last three weeks.
On April 16, Duterte said if people cannot exercise discipline, military and police will take over to enforce social distancing and curfew. “It will be like martial law,” he said.
The next day, his Cabinet Secretary, Karlo Nograles, tried to downplay it saying that what the President really meant was “Martial Law type.”
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, however, corrected Nograles: “Lilinawin ko. It’s not Martial Law type ang bantaniPresidente. (Let me make this clear. The President’s threat was not Martial Law type).
“He will not hesitate to call upon the military to enforce the ECQ (Enhanced Community Quarantine). That’s the calling out power,” he said, referring to the Constitutional provision giving the President authority to call out armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence and invasion.
On April 23, alleging that the New People’s Army committed acts of lawlessness, he said, “I might declare Martial Law. There will be no turning back.”
The next day, Roque said if the NPA continues to block the distribution of relief goods to the communities, Duterte “will use his extraordinary power of the President to declare Martial Law.”
Panelo is not using the people’s lack of discipline of the NPA as justification for declaration of Martial Law. It’s COVID-19. “It threatens in fact the entire country ‘yunglahat ng mgakababayannatin so may actual nainvasion.. Sa akingpananaw po bilang abogado, lahat ng sitwasyon o kalakarannamaaaring parang rebellion o invasion at nagbibigay ng panganib, imminent danger sataumbayan eh pwedekanggumamit ng extraordinary power under the constitution.”
The statements of Duterte, Roque and Panelo rhyme. There must be a reason.