MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte’s arrest order against violators of quarantine protocols to fight coronavirus disease (Covid-19) is not a prelude to the declaration of martial law in the country, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said on Thursday.
Nograles made the clarification, a day after Duterte threatened to order the arrest of persons who will cause disorder amid government efforts to curb the spread of Covif-19.
In a virtual press briefing aired on state-run Covid-19, Nograles said there was no discussion about the possible implementation of nationwide martial law to maintain peace and order in the country.
“Ngayon (Now), is martial law an option? Hindi natin pinag-uusapan ang martial law. So hindi iyan pinag-uusapan ngayon (We’re not talking about martial law. It’s not on the agenda now),” Nograles said.
In a televised nation address on Wednesday night, Duterte said he would order authorities to arrest people who are trying to “mess up” with the government amid the implementation of the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine.
Duterte’s pronouncement came after Leftist group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) reportedly instigated the arrested individuals in Quezon City to stage a rally on Wednesday and demand for food and other assistance from the government.
The activists were arrested by Quezon City police for their failure to secure permit from the government to hold such protest.
Maintaining peace, order
While the Covid-19 outbreak is a public health issue, it is also important to maintain peace and order in the country, Nograles said.
Nograles said Duterte would not tolerate any unlawful acts that seek to sow chaos amid the health crisis.
“How far the President will go to ensure peace and order? Obviously in a state of calamity, there has to be order,” he said. “Napaka-importante po para kay Pangulong Duterte (It’s very important for President Duterte) to keep the peace and order, especially in this time.”
Nograles said Duterte merely wanted to stop unscrupulous persons from taking advantage of the situation.
He said the Covid-19 pandemic also becomes a “peace and order issue” when people take advantage of the situation.
“It’s already a public health issue. Hahaluan ng peace and order, magkakaproblema tayo (But we will have a problem if it becomes a peace and order issue). So, let it just remain to be a public health issue and concern, which we are currently managing. Don’t let it be a peace and order problem,” Nograles said.
Gov’t knows what’s ‘legal, right’
Nograles said it is only necessary for law enforcers to meddle when someone tries to hinder the government’s efforts to stop the further transmission of Covid-19.
He assured that authorities know “what to do and what not to do.”
“Kung may mag-create ng chaos at gulo (If they would create chaos and disorder), then that’s when our peacekeepers and law enforcers have to come in,” Nograles said. “May protocols and procedures po tayo diyan. May rules of engagement po (We have protocols and procedures there. We have rules of engagement).”
Nograles also assured the public that the government’s actions would be based on what is “legal” and “right.”
“The government will follow the law. The government will follow what is legal. The government will follow what is right. And we ask for the cooperation of everyone,” he said. (PNA)