Palace: Duterte not using virus to declare martial law

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque | photo

Malacañang denied rumors that President Rodrigo Duterte is taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to declare martial law in the Philippines.

“Nakakatawa po ‘yan kasi hindi naman lang naman sa Pilipinas ang merong pandemic (That’s funny because it’s not only the Philippines experiencing the pandemic),” said presidential spokesperson Harry Roque in an online briefing on Monday, April 27.

The statement came after Duterte’s critics insinuated that the pandemic was just a cover for the president’s real intent: imposing martial law on the entire country.

“Ang katotohanan po, ang sinabi naman ng Presidente, ang martial law ay gagamitin kapag nagpatuloy po ang NPA (New People’s Army) doon sa kanilang pag-atake sa sundalo, lalong lalo na iyan, ‘yung mga sundalo na nagbabantay lang naman doon sa mga nagbibigay ayuda sa ating taumbayan (The truth is President Duterte said martial law would be used only if the NPA continues attacking our soldiers, especially those manning COVID-19 checkpoints),” the spokesman added.

On Friday, April 24, Duterte warned that martial law would be declared if communist rebels continued its attacks against government troops following the deaths of two soldiers due to an NPA assault in Aurora province.

“‘Pag nagpatuloy kayo ng lawlessness ninyo, patay dito, patay doon, and it’s happening all over the Philippines, maybe I will declare martial law because kayong mga NPA ang numero uno. Kinukuha ninyo iyong mga tulong sa tao, pati iyong supply, pagkain nila (If you continue your lawlessness, killings here and there, and it’s happening all over the Philippines, maybe I will declare martial law because you NPAs are number one. You get the aid for the people, even their supplies, food),” the president said.

Roque rebuked by saying that Duterte can use his “extraordinary” power to declare martial law.

“Yan po ay nasa Saligang Batas. Wala pong pinagsasamantalahan ang Presidente dahil ang kaniyang batayan naman ay Saligang Batas mismo (That’s in the Constitution. The president is not abusing anyone because his basis is the Constitution),” he said.
According to the 1987 Constitution, martial law may be declared in case there is “invasion or rebellion” or “when the public safety requires it.”

List of areas under ECQ revised

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases on Monday approved the revisions to the list of areas that will remain under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) until May 15.

The areas under ECQ until May 15 are Metro Manila, Central Luzon except Aurora, Calabarzon, Pangasinan, Benguet, Baguio City, Iloilo, Cebu province, Cebu City, and Davao City.

“Ang ibang mga lugar na hindi ko po kasama sa aking mga binasa, sila po ay mapapasailalim sa general community quarantine (Other areas that were not mentioned will now be under a general community quarantine),” he said.

Duterte on April 24 previously extended the enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Pangasinan, Benguet, Albay, and the islands of Mindoro and Catanduanes until May 15.

The inclusion of Benguet, Pangasinan, Tarlac, and Zambales under quarantine is still subject to monitoring by April 30. Meanwhile, Antique, Iloilo, Aklan, Capiz, Cebu, Cebu City, Davao del Norte, Davao City, and Davao de Oro will be re-evaluated.

Roque added that “low-risk” or “moderate-risk” areas will be under a “general community quarantine” until May 15 and will further be relaxed to “normalization” if there is no deterioration.

The IATF-EID will also be making decisions to impose, lift, or extend quarantine in provinces, highly-urbanized cities (HUCs), and independent component cities (ICCs) beginning May 16.

“Chief executives of HUCs and ICCs are likewise authorized to impose enhanced community quarantine in barangays upon the concurrence of their respective regional inter-agency task groups. No LGU [local government unit] shall declare their own community quarantine regardless of nomenclature without observing the foregoing procedure,” the IATF said.

Ritchel Mendiola

Ritchel Mendiola is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at [email protected].

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