MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte’s stance on the possible declaration of martial law amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic differs from the “personal view” of Presidential Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, Malacañang said on Tuesday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the statement a day after Panelo claimed Duterte can declare martial law on the basis of “invasion” of Covid-19.
In a virtual presser aired on government-owned PTV-4, Roque clarified that his office has the sole authority to make an official statement “on behalf of the President and of the executive branch of the government.”
“I think that is the personal view of Secretary Panelo. There is a memo which designates that Office of the Presidential Spokesperson as the only authorized office to speak on behalf of the President and on behalf of the executive branch of government. We cannot of course deprive Secretary Panelo of his freedom of speech,” he said.
The 1987 Constitution states that a president can only declare martial law in case of invasion or rebellion when public safety requires it.
During his commentary show aired on PTV-4 on Monday, Panelo said the term “invasion” has changed throughout the years and can also mean “the entry of a disease and the transfer from one area to another.”
“There is an actual invasion of the coronavirus disease which is pandemic. It threatens, in fact, the entire country,” Panelo said. “Lahat ng sitwasyon o kalakaran na maaaring parang rebellion at invasion at ito’y nagbibigay ng malubhang panganib, imminent danger sa taumbayan ay puwede kang gumamit ng isang extraordinary power under the Constitution (Any situation that might prompt rebellion or invasion that poses grave threat or imminent danger to the public allows the use of extraordinary power under Constitution).”
On April 23, Duterte said he never made a pronouncement that he would declare martial rule amid the Covid-19 crisis.
Duterte said he might only be forced to impose martial law in that event that the unlawful acts of the communist movement’s armed wing, the New People’s Army, persists.
Roque said Duterte’s previous statement is different from the opinion of Panelo.
“Ang sabi ni Presidente, hindi siya mag-aatubili na magdeklara ng martial law, sang-ayon po doon sa basehan na nakasaad sa ating Saligang Batas, at iyan po ay rebellion ng NPA (The President said he would not hesitate to declare martial law, in accordance with the Constitution, and that is the NPA rebellion),” he said. “Ang Presidente po ang nagsalita niyan. Ibig sabihin po, magkaiba po sila ng posisyon ni Secretary Panelo (That’s the President’s statement. Meaning, the President and Secretary Panelo have a different view).”
Reacting to Panelo’s statement, Justice Secretary Guevarra said martial law can only be enforced if there is an armed action by human beings, “not by non-living things like viruses.”
Roque agreed with Guevarra’s statement.
“In legal parlance, I concur with the view of Secretary Guevarra,” he said. (ia/PNA)