Panelo: Troop deployment not prelude to national martial law
Post from Peace 88.3 FM
Malacañang has allayed fears of government’s critics that President Rodrigo Duterte’s new order deploying more troops to parts of the country supposedly to suppress lawless violence was a prelude to nationwide martial law.
In a television interview, Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte was just enforcing the law against “lawless violence and acts of terror,” which have become rampant in some areas.
“If it’s martial law, it’s a different thing. You will remember that martial law has been declared for over a year in Mindanao and the people there are in fact in support of it; that archbishop there made a statement in support of it. They are not complaining,” Panelo said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel.
“In fact, there had been no reported abuses from the military, this is a different martial law. It’s strictly enforcing the law against lawless violence, against acts of terrorism,” he said.
Duterte, through Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, issued Memorandum Order (MO) 32 directing the deployment of more soldiers and policemen to Samar, Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental and Bicol Region to “suppress lawless violence and acts of terror.”
The memorandum reinforces guidelines for the implementation of a national emergency on account of lawless violence, which was issued in 2016 after the blast in Davao City that killed at least 14 people.
But government critics fear that the President’s order is “an apparent prelude to a nationwide martial law declaration.”
“This is the same scenario that was played before in Mindanao. First, there was a denial, then came the declaration of a state of emergency citing lawless violence and, eventually, declaration of martial law on the island, which is being floated to be extended again,” Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said in a statement.
Rep. Antonio Tinio of Act Teachers suspects that sending more soldiers to the southern provinces only aims to show that the “so-called state of lawless violence in
Mindanao has now spread to Luzon and Visayas” and that this could be considered as “taking another step toward the declaration of martial law nationwide.”
Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao agreed with his colleagues and called on the “Filipino people to oppose Duterte’s attempt to impose a nationwide martial law.”
But Panelo insisted that Duterte’s deployment order was meant to provide the needed “support” for local government units, “not take over” the provinces.
“If the civilian government cannot handle it, then there’s a need for support. And even if they can handle it, there’s a need for support coming from the PNP (Philippine National Police). That’s exactly the job of the PNP and the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines), to suppress lawless violence,” he said.
In a separate statement, the Palace official enumerated incidents of lawless violence in the deployment areas in the past months that prompted Duterte to issue MO 32.
Panelo said these incidents include “killing and ambush of uniformed personnel, attacks on police stations, torching and destruction of equipment, the massacre of civilians and murders of local officials.”
In Samar, he cited the ambush of soldiers providing relief to victims of a typhoon, an armed attack at the police station in Lapinig, an ambush attack against the 63rd Infantry Battalion in Matuguinao and an assault on the former mayor of San Jose de Buan.
“We have also witnessed acts of lawlessness in the province of Negros Oriental such as, but not limited to, torching of heavy equipment in Manjuyod, strafing of the house of the barangay [village] chairman, attack on police detachments and the killing of a police chief on separate occasions in Guihulngan,” Panelo said.
In the province of Negros Occidental, he noted the attack against the 62nd Infantry Battalion while conducting clearing and combat operations in preparation for the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections in Kabankalan and the massacre of the nine farmers in Sagay.
Meanwhile, in the Bicol Region, the Palace official cited instances of lawless violence that include the ambush of a convoy of Food and Drug Administration Director-General Nela Charade Puno in Camarines Sur, firefights in Lagonoy and a clash in Bato, among others.
Panelo, also Duterte’s chief legal counsel, explained that MO 32 is in accordance with the President’s Proclamation 55, which declared a state of national emergency on account of lawless violence and ordered the police and military not just to suppress lawless violence in Mindanao but also to prevent them from spreading and escalating elsewhere in the country.
“The order reflects the President’s assurance to our people that authorities will continue respecting and giving due regard to the constitutional rights of all individuals while it is in place. Civil and political rights, as well as all existing rules and applicable jurisprudence during a state of national emergency, shall remain observed by agents of the AFP and PNP,” he said.
“All these measures are being undertaken pursuant to the constitutional command to the President to serve and protect the people,” the Palace official added.
Duterte placed the entire Mindanao under martial law in May last year amid clashes between government troops and the Islamic State-inspired Maute group and Abu Sayyaf in Marawi City.
Congress later granted Duterte’s request to extend martial law up to December this year even after Marawi had been freed from the terrorists’ presence on Oct.17, 2017.