By Jeffrey Damicog
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said on Friday, April 17, that President Rodrigo Duterte would not resort to the imposition of martial law in response to the national health emergency triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As a lawyer and the Commander-in-Chief, the President knows that he may declare martial law only in actual cases of rebellion or invasion, not on the ground of a public health emergency,” Guevarra told reporters.
Guevarra pointed out that the President “may call out the armed forces whenever necessary to prevent or suppress lawless violence, including lawless violence that may arise due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
During his public address on Thursday night, April 16, Duterte threatened a martial law-like lockdown should people continue to violate regulations under the government’s enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
“I am just asking for your disiplina konti kasi pag ayaw ninyo, ayaw ninyong maniwala, mag take over ang military, pati ang pulis (I am just asking you to be more disciplined because if not, believe me, the police and the military will take over),” Duterte warned
“Hindi nga naman ito martial law, pero parang martial law na rin (It’s not martial law, but it’s like it) in the sense that I have to impose something on you for your own good and for the good of the country and people,” he said.
Should this scenario actually materialize, Guevarra said, there is no basis for public apprehension.
“It simply means na mas may military presence (there will be military presence) to help the police enforce the law,” he explained.
“And that is for the protection, not oppression, of the people,” he added.
Guevarra also pointed out that “the courts will continue to function, civil authorities will remain supreme, human rights will be respected.”
“The military will be there not only to help keep law and order but, more importantly, to instill public discipline, which is most needed in crisis times like this,” he stated.