Martial law has been a part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s vocabulary since he assumed power in…
In the almost four years of the Duterte administration, President Duterte many times floated the idea of declaring martial law.
He revived it again last April 16 while talking about the need for discipline in the implementation of the lockdown he has ordered to stop the spread of Covid-19 which has already infected more than 9,500 and claimed the lives of more than 600 in the country.
His threat is that, if people continue to violate quarantine rules, he “might have to declare martial law.”
He later added to the justification of his plan to declare martial law the alleged attacks of the New People’s Army, which the rebel group denied.
Last Monday, a bizarre justification for the declaration of martial law was provided by his chief presidential counsel, Salvador Panelo.
In a video commentary, Panelo said, "May bago nang international meaning ang invasion (There’s a new international meaning of invasion.)...It can mean the entry of a disease and the transfer from one area to another."
"Ano bang meron ngayon (What do we have now)? There is an actual invasion of the coronavirus disease which is pandemic," he said.
Panelo’s argument was unbelievably outrageous that Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra had to issue a statement: "In the context of martial law, 'invasion' refers to invasion of a country by foreign armed forces. this is analogous to the other ground for declaring martial law, i.e., rebellion, which is an armed uprising against the government by its own citizens. Both terms refer to armed actions by human beings, not by non-living things like viruses."
Many dismissed Panelo’s statement as a joke. We cannot, however, take lightly Panelo’s theory of invasion by a virus to declare martial law because there has been a pattern in official statements towards armed rule in the last few weeks.
On April 16, Duterte said if people cannot exercise discipline, military and police will take over to enforce social distancing and curfew. “It will be like martial law,” he said.
His cabinet secretary, Karlo Nograles, immediately tried to downplay it saying that what the President really meant was “Martial Law type.”
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, however, corrected Nograles: “Lilinawin ko. It’s not Martial Law type ang banta ni Presidente. (Let me make this clear. The President’s threat was not Martial Law type).”
“He will not hesitate to call upon the military to enforce the ECQ (Enhanced Community Quarantine). That’s the calling out power,” he said referring to the Constitutional provision giving the President authority to call out armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence and invasion.
On April 23, alleging that the New People’s Army committed acts of lawlessness, Duterte again warned, “I might declare Martial Law. There will be no turning back.”
The next day, Roque said if the NPA continues to block the distribution of relief goods to the communities, Duterte “will use his extraordinary power of the President to declare Martial Law.
Now comes Panelo with his bizarre theory since Covid-19 threatens the entire country, “So may actual na invasion..Sa aking pananaw po bilang abogado, lahat ng sitwasyon o kalakaran na maaaring parang rebellion o invasion at nagbibigay ng panganib, imminent danger sa taumbayan eh pwede kang gumamit ng extraordinary power under the Constitution. (So there’s actual invasion. In my view as a lawyer, all the situation that can justify rebellion or invasion that presents danger, imminent danger to the people can be used to justify extraordinary power under the Constitution.)"
The statements of Duterte, Roque and Panelo rhyme. There must be a reason. Be scared.