MANILA – Malacañang on Monday denied allegations that President Rodrigo Duterte is using the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic to declare martial law in the country.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque laughed off the allegation, saying the health crisis is a global problem.
“Nakakatawa po ‘yan kasi hindi lang naman sa Pilipinas ang merong pandemic (That’s funny because it’s not only the Philippines experiencing the pandemic),” he said in a virtual presser.
Roque explained anew that Duterte would only declare martial law if communist rebels continue to attack the government troops guarding the distribution of food and cash aid to the public.
Earlier, Duterte said he might only be compelled to declare martial rule if lawlessness of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), persists.
Duterte made this warning as he vented frustrations after two soldiers were killed and three others were injured following attacks by the NPA during aid distribution in Aurora province on April 21.
Roque, meanwhile, reiterated that Duterte may use his “extraordinary” power to declare martial law, in case the lawlessness of the NPA becomes unmanageable.
“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),” Roque said.
Last Friday, the CPP said Duterte should stop using communist rebels to justify his penchant for martial law rule.
The CPP also said Duterte should not highlight the NPA’s alleged activities to cover up the administration’s failure to address the Covid-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, Roque said he “respects” the opinion of Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson to support Duterte’s possible declaration of martial law at least in areas where the NPA operates.
He said just like how Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao after the clash between government troops and Maute group terrorists in Marawi City in 2017, he could do so for select areas.
Under the 1987 Constitution, Duterte may declare martial law in case there is “invasion or rebellion” or “when the public safety requires it”.
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. (IA/PNA)