DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 25 March) — President Rodrigo Duterte has spoken about declaring — or not declaring — martial law in 25 speeches and media interviews since he first broached it in August, 17 of that since January this year, MindaNews noted from official transcripts released by the Presidential News Desk of the Presidential Communications Office.
Of the 17 “martial law talk” this year, nine were said in March, two in February and six in January.
It was also in March when Duterte, the country’s first Mindanawon President, first specifically mentioned an area over which he would declare martial law: Mindanao.
Mindanao has 27 provinces and 33 cities.
“Either tulungan ninyo ako or I will declare martial law tomorrow for Mindanao,” Duterte warned on March 9 here as he exhorted governors and mayors of 13 of Mindanao’s 27 provinces to use their powers to prevent violence “from spinning out of control.”
“Yan ang problema ko ngayon. Tulungan ninyo ako” (That’s my problem now. Help me), Duterte said, adding that if he declares martial law, “then I have to authorize the military just to arrest and detain you … And it would not be good for our people and they would go into a trauma. Because how long would it take? I don’t know. It could be 20 days, it could last for one year.”
A day earlier, he told the Philippine Councilors League in its 10th National Congress in Pasay City that he does not need to declare martial law. “Hindi ko na kailangan ‘yang Martial Law… I will do what I think is legally allowable and just do it,” he said.
He said he can ask the military to go to a city or municipality “to plan out what is good for a peaceful city or municipality” because “I have declared the state of lawlessness and the fact that the military is there helping the police…”
On September 4 last year, two days after a bomb explosion at the Roxas night market here that left 15 dead and 69 others injured, Duterte signed Proclamation 55 declaring a “State of National Emergency on account of lawless violence in Mindanao.”
Duterte commanded the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to “undertake such measures as may be permitted by the Constitution and existing laws to suppress any and all forms of lawless violence in Mindanao and to prevent such lawless violence from spreading and escalating elsewhere in the Philippines, with due regard to the fundamental civil and political rights of our citizens.”
The Proclamation is still in effect.
“It’s the military who runs the show”
On March 11 in Baguio City, Duterte told reporters that under martial law there would be no need for a warrant of arrest or search warrant but an ASO (he meant Arrest Search and Seizure Order) as was done under martial during the Marcos dictatorship.
“At hindi rin ako papayag na i-curtail mo ‘yung powers ko (And I will not allow that you will curtail my powers). I will implement martial law the way it is worded and defined in the dictionaries and legal books. No other interpretations. …. It’s the military who runs the show,” he added.
On March 13, he told Malacanang reporters that under martial law there is no need for the courts to issue a warrant of arrest or search warrant, but an arrest, search (and seizure) order signed by the martial law administrator who, he said is “usually the highest military officer” who acts like a governor.
Duterte explained that if he declares martial law, “tatapusin ko talaga…. tatapusin ko ang problema” (I will finish it off, really finish off the problem)…. Tapos as in tapos” (Totally finished).
“I will have to use all the might of the Armed Forces, air, sea… It’s going to be an invasion actually. I will order the invasion of places where government cannot operate,” Duterte said.
Speaking to reporters in Myanmar after talking to the Filipino Community there on March 19, Duterte warned: “do not tempt me to declare martial law in Mindanao for starters. Because if I declare martial law, I will finish every problem of that island. Tatapusin ko na talaga lahat para wala na ‘yung next generation, wala na.”
“If I declare martial law, I will finish, I will finish all what ails the island. Ayaw ko. So do not force my hand into it. Because if I do, wala nang atrasan. Tatapusin ko talaga (there will be no backing out. I will really finish it) to the last period. So, ayaw ko (I don’t like). Do not force me to do it. Okay?,” Duterte said.
“Do not force my hand into it”
Before the Filipino community in Thailand on March 22, Duterte again said he does not have to declare martial law. “So dito lang. huwag na yung martial law na declare martial law. Dito lang umiikot. And my oath of office says I must preserve the Filipino people.”
Upon arrival from his official visits in Myanmar and Thailand early morning of March 23, Duterte again warned Mindanawons, particularly the Maranao, to help him.
“You overdo things, you put bombs in schools, you bomb ‘yung mga IED diyan sa mga eskwelahan ng mga bata, then you have forced my hand to declare martial law,” Duterte said.
He again repeated earlier pronouncements that under martial law, he does not have to go to court to have warrants of arrest or search warrants issued, that he would finish off “lahat ng problema ng bayan diyan sa Mindanao” (all the problems in Mindanao) without specifically naming these problems.
Hours later, he told members of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines’ National Convention that he was “pleading for peace,” that they should not wait for him to resort to using “extraordinary powers.”
“Do not force my hand into it. Once you begin to massacre and slaughter people who are innocent, I will declare martial law over the entire island,” Duterte said.
At the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce on March 24, Duterte again said: “Do not force my hand into” declaring martial law.”
“Do not force me into it. I beg of you. Do not do things that would hurt the civilians. I can understand if I lost one battalion of Army, anyway there’s a rebellion going on between the extremists and the ISIS and the other factions there,” he said.
“Now let me tell you. There are so many problems in Mindanao, including terrorism. If I declare martial law, I will solve every other problem permanently. You can be sure of that,” he said.
“A cruel process”
“I do not have to go to the courts to secure a warrant of arrest. Martial law, just like Mr. Marcos, he used the aso (ASSO) in order to arrest, to search. Aso (ASSO) ang tawag nila doon. It’s a cruel process and it is taken care of by the military,” Duterte said.
“So I said I’m begging you not to raise the stakes. Because if I will declare (martial law), I will not only solve extremism. I will solve, I said, every other problem that f_cks the island,” he said.
At the ARMM Local Government Summit here on December 1 last year, Duterte ruled out martial law as the solution to address terror groups like the Maute Group.
“Ngayon sinasabi nila na martial law. Martial law. Mag-martial law ako dito, ano? Patayin ko lahat ‘yang Maute pati ‘yang mga religious extremists? Then? Then? Bakit, ‘yon bang nasa utak niya maipasa niya sa anak niya? Hindi, kanya ’yun eh. So what guy —- what this guy would remember is that tatay niya pinatay” (Now they’re saying martial law. Martial Law. I will declare martial law? I will kill the Maute and those religious extremists? Then? Then? Why, will he be able to pass on his thoughts to his child? No, that’s his own. So what this guy would remember is that his father was killed).
“Martial law for what? Killing people? I would rather empower every mayor,” Duterte said.
Duterte talked about martial law eight times last year, the first on August 9 in Camp Evangelista, Cagayan de Oro City where he lashed out at Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno and dared her “would you rather that I will declare martial law?” if the Supreme Court, he said, got in the way of his war on drugs.
Duterte was reacting to Sereno’s directive to the judges included in Duterte’s “narco list” not to heed police summons unless they were served warrants for their arrest. Of the seven named by Duterte, only four were in active service, one died in 2008, another was dismissed in 2007 for gross ignorance of law and misconduct and one retired in June 2016.
Dawn of September 3, a few hours after the bomb explosion at the Roxas Night Market in Davao City, Duterte mulled declaring a state of lawless violence which, he said, is “not martial law but I am inviting now the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the military and the police to run the country in accordance with my specifications.” He signed Proclamation 55 on September 4.
At the Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) celebration in Makati City on October 4, Duterte revealed a reason why he declared a state of national emergency, a reason not cited in Proclamation 55.
He said he was “tempted really to declare martial law but it is not feasible.”
“Well, fine. That’s why I declared a state of lawlessness because narco-politics has entered our country just like the failed states of South America,” he said.
Under the 1987 Constitution, the President may suspend the writ of the privilege of habeas corpus or place the country or any part thereof under martial law only “in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it,” and only for a period “not exceeding 60 days” unless extended by Congress. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)