By Genalyn Kabiling
The “invasion” of the new coronavirus disease could be a basis for martial law declaration in the country because it poses a threat to public safety, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said Monday.
In his latest “Counterpoint” program, Panelo offered his “legal theory” about the the coronavirus pandemic as President Duterte’s possible ground for martial rule other than rebellion waged by communist rebels.
Under the Constitution, the President may place the country or any place within it under martial law for 60 days “in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it.”
Panelo argued that invasion has another “international meaning” about the entry of a deadly disease, apart from the forced entry of an army to occupy and control another country.
“Gaya ng sinabi ko kay Presidente noon isang linggo (Like I told the President the other week), it can mean the entry of a disease and the transfer of an area to one another. Tandaan po ninyo, ano ba mayroon ngayon (Kindly recall, what is going on right now)? There is an actual invasion of the coronavirus disease which is a pandemic,” he said in his program aired on state television Monday.
“It threatens, in fact, the entire country, ‘yung lahat ng kababayan (all the countryment), so may (there is) actual invasion and public safety is in danger. ‘Yan ang sinasabi ng (That is what’s said by the) Constitution, rebellion or invasion when public safety requires,” he added.
President Duterte recently threatened to declare martial law if the communist rebels will continue with their acts of lawlessness. Duterte issued the warning after deploring rebel attacks on troops involved in relief distribution, as well as the rebels’ reported theft of aid intended for poor beneficiaries.
Panelo maintained that the President may use his extraordinary power to declare martial law in the event of dangerous situations related to invasion and rebellion.
“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,” he said.
(In my view as a lawyer, you may use extraordinary power under the Constitution in all situations similar to rebellion or invasion that pose imminent danger to the people.)
Asked to comment on Panelo’s remarks, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said: “No comment, but that’s not the Palace position.”
The government has enforced strict quarantine measures in Metro Manila and several other areas with high risk of coronavirus infection. A more relaxed quarantine policy is in effect in places with moderate to low risk of coronavirus spread.
While lockdown measures are enforced, the government has moved to improve the country’s healthcare capacity, particularly in the treatment, tracing, and treatment of patients, while distributing aid to affected sectors.
As of May 4, the number of coronavirus cases has climbed to 9,485, including 1,315 recoveries and 623 fatalities.