By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senators on Monday dismissed allegations that President Duterte will declare martial law due to the spate of killing of local government officials.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the series of killings involving mayors and a vice mayor recently does not warrant a declaration for martial law, saying it has been happening in previous administrations.
“I don’t think so. The atmosphere does not call for it,” Sotto told reporters in an interview in Pasig Monday.
“Hindi naman bago ang maraming away sa local, eh. Matagal na yan. Even during and after Martial Law talagang mainit ang local politics sa atin (It’s not new that there are a lot of fights in local government. That has been happening ever since. Even during and after Martial Law, our local politics has been),’ he added.
Sotto said that while he understands that people may have such concern following the killings, President Duterte should not be blamed for it.
“Ang hirap naman lahat na lang pag may nangyari kaagad dun tayo nakaturo sa leader, let’s take it at face value,” Sotto said.
Administration ally Sen. Aquilino Pimentel said it is impossible that Duterte will use the killings to declare a military rule in the country. It is not the character of the President.
“No, no, [that’s] impossible. No way. No way that lives will be sacrificed just so the President can impose martial law nationwide,” Pimentel said.
“Hindi po tayo ganyan at hindi rin ganyan ang presidente po natin. Huwag tayong maniwala sa ganyang analysis. Masyadong politically intriguing naman yang analysis na ‘yan (We are not like that and our President is not like that. We should not believe in that analysis. It’s too politically intriguing),” Pimentel stressed.
Pimentel, however, noted that the declaration of a military rule will still “depend on the circumstances.”
Opposition Sen. Francis Pangilinan, in condemning the killings of local executives within a week, claimed that the deaths were part of an “orchestrated” attempt by the government to establish a state of lawlessness and “to justify strongman rule.”
Former Solicitor-General Florin Hilbay, in a television interview Sunday, said Duterte might use the spate of killings to declare martial law.
“I think the public should be worried about the possibility that these killings might be used by the President himself as justification or in operationalizing what he wants which is declaring martial law,” Hilbay said.
President Duterte on May 23, 2017 declared martial law in Mindanao following the attack of Islamic State-inspired Maute Group in Marawi City. Congress had allowed its extension until the end of this year to allow the government to suppress lawless violence and rebellion in Mindanao and to work on the war-torn city’s rehabilitation.
But Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, last month, said the declaration may not be lifted yet if there is still security threat in the region.
“It will be lifted as long as there is no need for martial law,” Roque said in Palace briefing last May 23.