Government need not declare martial law to intensify war on drugs

By Genalyn Kabiling

President Duterte is unlikely to declare martial law to boost the government's "harsher" war on illegal drugs, Malacañang said Thursday.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo explained that the President believes the anti-drug crackdown could be intensified using other measures, such as stepping up intelligence work to destroy the drug apparatus.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN) Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN)

"I don’t think so, because he doesn’t have to. We are containing it given the figures – official figures," Panelo said during a Palace press briefing, when asked if Duterte will use martial law for the drug war.

Panelo, however, argued that the President could use his powers such as the martial law declaration, under the Constitution to protect public safety if necessary. The President has the constitutional mandate to serve and protect the people, he added.

"If the public safety requires him to do something extraordinary using his powers under the Constitution, he will do that," Panelo said.

"If there is rebellion, and there is eminence, and the public safety requires – then the President can do that. But according to him, he will not, he will not because he has still many measures that he can do to quell the present threat on the drug industry," he said about the use of martial law.

The President recently declared that the government’s drug war would be "harsher in the days to come" following the reported presence of two foreign drug cartels. The drug problem, he said, has been elevated to a national security threat due to the adverse impact on Filipino families.

"I’m declaring war and I’ve raised it to the level of a national security. When a national security threat (is around) it’s a game of self-preservation. Either I destroy you or you destroy me," he said in an interview with reporters at the Palace last Wednesday.

For now, Panelo said the harsher drug war involves the intensified operations by the law enforcement agencies. He said the President's twin approach to battling the drug trade includes "the arrest of drug traffickers as well as the rehabilitation of the drug addicts."

"The President is relentless in his campaign and he’s focused in it; and has in fact instructed the police forces to do everything in their power and in the accordance with law to dismantle the entire drug apparatus in the Philippines, “he said.

"They should engage more on intelligence work para mas marami silang mahuhuli. Because you cannot naman arrest these people unless you have basis," he added.

Panelo also defended that the government's drug war actually remains effective despite the presence of Sinaloa and Medellin drug cartels as claimed by the President.

He noted that authorities have arrested many drug suspects, seized illegal drugs, and dismantled drug laboratories since the campaign began in 2016. He said the foreign drug cartels were probably trafficking drugs into the county due to the huge profit and easy border access to the archipelago.

"Given the fact that this is not been stopped by previous administration and it is only now that there is relentless war against drugs, sa tingin ko given the statistics, sinisira natin ang drug industry dito sa bansa natin," he said.

"Siguro kung walang drug war, eh baka iyang 3 million mo, baka by this time, it is ballooned to as many million as we imagined," he added.