By Genalyn Kabiling
Martial law has become an “overused and “abused” concept and only a “bugok” (rotten) leader will use it as a threat, President Rodrigo Duterte said last Thursday.
At the post-typhoon damage assessment in Legazpi City, the President made clear he was not threatening to declare martial law even as the country faces imminent “disaster.”
Duterte tackled various issues such as the communist insurgency, terrorism, and the alleged onerous water concession agreements in his speech before mentioning martial law.
“Two disasters. The one, umalis na (already left) [referring to Typhoon Tisoy]. We have a disaster coming up but that disaster is…We will not allow it. I am sure. My military will not allow it. My police will not allow it. ‘Yan ang masiguro ninyo (you can be sure of that),” he said in his remarks.
“I’m not making any threats. ‘Yang martial law-martial law, wala ‘yan. Kalokohan ‘yan. Bugok lang na presidente maggamit niyan (Martial law is nothing. That’s foolishness. Only an addled president will use that). It’s an overused, abused word, martial law and even its practice,” he added.
Before making the martial law comment, the President deplored that communist rebels have been engaged in atrocities, including killing innocent civilians. He said they should stop “punishing the wrong person.”
“‘Yung mga farmers mag-neutral, ayaw magkampi sa inyo, pinapatay ninyo. Anong klase…? Kung galit kayo sa mga mayaman, ‘yung mga ganun (When the farmers remain neutral and they don’t want to side with you, you kill them. What kind of…? Get mad at the rich and the like),” he said.
He admitted that Bicol has a “serious problem of insurgency.”
To help address the problem, Duterte has made a last-ditch attempt to revive the peace talks with communist rebels by sending Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to talk to communist leader Jose Maria Sison.
Another problem troubling President Duterte is the threat of terrorism. He admitted that he is concerned that the Islamic State threat in Sulu might spill to other parts of Mindanao.
“Sa Mindanao, they are grappling with terrorism. And that — if there is one thing that would give me the sweat in the hands at parang natatakot ako (and I dread) would be the threat here of terrorism,” he said.
“I cannot project even if it’s time to keep stock of everything and prepare. But it is always good to be prepared for all of these things. But Mindanao is very open to these kind of things,” he added.
He has authorized the deployment of more troops to Mindanao to keep peace and security in the area.
Martial law has remained in effect in Mindanao since the Marawi City siege by local terror elements in 2017. The martial law declaration, imposed by the President, has been extended to the end of the year.
Recently, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana recommended to Duterte the lifting of martial law in Mindanao. He reportedly claimed that the condition in Mindanao has improved since the defeat of the Maute fighters.