MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte can wield his “extraordinary” power to declare martial law, in case the lawlessness of the New People’s Army (NPA) becomes unmanageable, Malacañang said on Friday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte would not hesitate to declare martial law should NPA rebels continue to attack government troops who are assisting local officials in distributing emergency assistance to people affected by the crisis driven by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
Roque said the NPA’s relentless attacks against state forces would be Duterte’s legal basis to impose martial rule.
“Gagamitin po niya (Duterte) ang (He will use the) extraordinary power of the presidency to declare martial law against this group na engaged in an act of rebellion against the government,” he said in a virtual press briefing aired on state-run PTV-4.
In a taped public address aired on Friday morning, Duterte clarified that he never has the intention to place the country under martial rule.
The President, however, said the lawless acts of the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), might prompt him to declare martial rule.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año backed Roque’s statement, saying that Duterte can take such an “extreme” measure, “if public safety is so required.”
Año, who joined Roque at the virtual press conference, said Duterte has the right to implement martial law to protect the public against those who intend to sow chaos amid the health crisis in the country.
”Ano ang magiging batayan kung bakit magde-declare ng martial law? Kapag nagkaroon ng massive public disorder at kung meron talagang grupo na magti-take advantage katulad ng CPP-NPA sa crisis na ito (What would be the basis for declaring martial law? In case there is massive public disorder and if there are groups that would take advantage of the crisis, such as the CPP-NPA),” he said.
The 1987 Constitution allows Duterte to declare martial law in case there is “invasion or rebellion” or “when the public safety requires it.”
The NPA’s recent attacks came amid the government’s fight against Covid-19.
The CPP-NPA is tagged as a terror organization by the Philippines, the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.
Año assured the public that the government is on top of the situation.
He said appropriate measures are in place, while Luzon and other parts of the Visayas and Mindanao are under the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
”Sa ngayon naman, kontrolado natin ang mga sitwasyon dito sa ECQ (As of now, we are still able to control [the areas that are under] ECQ),” Año said.
“So makakaasa ang ating mga kababayan na tayo ay sisiguraduhin natin ang kaligtasan ng lahat sa panahon ng krisis na ito (The public can expect the government to ensure their safety amid this crisis),” he added. (PNA)