MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has decided he cannot declare martial law in Negros Island at the moment since the situation there does not yet call for such a declaration.
"I asked him last night about Negros and he said, 'You and I are lawyers. We know we cannot just impose martial law unless the requireents are there," said Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo on Tuesday, August 6.
“Martial law will only be enforced in accordance with the Constitution... In the Constitution, there has to be rebellion. For now, it’s unbridled killing that is still happening there," he continued.
But Duterte can still invoke other emergency powers in the charter, such as deploying more military troops to Negros.
Panelo said the President is yet to do this. So far, the Philippine National Police deployed 300 of its elite Special Action Force troops to help local police units.
The entire Philippines has been under a state of national emergency on account of lawless violence since September 5, 2016, after a bomb exploded in Davao City, killing 14.
Duterte had earlier said he would do something "drastic" to deal with the spate of killings in Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental.
In July, there was a marked increase in killings, many by masked gunmen in Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental.
In Negros Oriental, at least 21 people have been killed from July 18 to 27, including a lawyer, a barangay captain, a city councilor, a former mayor, and a one-year-old child. Rights groups say at least 87 people have been killed in the two Negros provinces since 2017.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had said he was not yet recommending any martial law declaration in Negros. Visayas' top general, Central Command chief Lieutenant General Noel Clement said martial law was not necessary there as the security situation is still "manageable."
Duterte has expressed outrage frequently over one particular killing incident in Negros Oriental – the killing and alleged torture of 4 police officers. Local police had attributed the killings to members of the New People's Army. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.