Palace rules out nationwide martial law; Reds gird for war
THE Philippines will not experience another dictatorship under President Rodrigo Duterte, Malacañang said Thursday, as it tried to assure the public his administration would not put the entire country under martial law to quell current and looming threats to national security.
However, Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison told the militant cadres to prepare for a “people’s war” against Duterte’s planned crackdown against insurgents under the pretext of a nationwide martial law.
Saying that Duterte will “surpass” the rate and proportions of the Marcos dictatorship, Sison warned that the “gross and systematic” violation of human rights in Mindanao would certainly escalate after the President decided to place communist rebels as the “main target” of his extended martial law until 2018.
Duterte has succeeded in convincing Congress to extend martial law in Mindanao for another year, as police and military officials warned of active jihadist and communist recruitment operations in the region.
“As in the time of Marcos, the battle cry of the revolutionaries today is: People’s war is the answer to martial law!” Sison said.
He drew parallels to the alleged terror tactics and flagrant human rights violations during the Marcos regime, which drove many to go underground and join an armed struggle.
But Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the government and the military have not abused their powers since declaring martial law in Mindanao on May 23, when firefights erupted between state forces and Islamic State-inspired terrorists in Marawi City.
Roque said Duterte’s martial law is different from the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos’ authoritarian rule, which saw killings and enforced disappearances of activists and opposition figures.
“This is not the same martial law that we had in 1972. Courts remain functioning, Congress remains existing, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution is enforced,” Roque, a human rights lawyer before joining Duterte’s Cabinet, said in a news briefing.
“So, I don’t think there’s been any legal basis for the fears of many that there will be the return of dictatorial rule. Neither has there been any systematic or gross violations of human rights so far,” he said.
Meanwhile, lawmakers on Thursday backed the move of Congress to extend martial law in Mindanao to Dec. 31, 2018, citing the “numerous benefits” of the decision.
Voting 240-27, the House of Representatives and the Senate, in a joint special session, approved the Resolution of Both Houses 13, which called for the extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus until the end of next year.
The Senate voted 14-4, while the House voted 226-23.
Rep. Makmod Mending Jr. Anak Mindanao party-list, said the people of Mindanao are generally in support of both moves, but lamented that Palace officials failed to honor their commitment to provide Congress with a weekly update on the implementation of martial law in Mindanao.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana apologized for the mistake and promised to rectify the error immediately. The Department of National Defense will give a monthly update to the House and the Senate on carrying out of the martial law extension in Mindanao, he added.
In another development, a militiaman and his son were shot dead by suspected New People’s Army rebels near their house in San Francisco, Quezon province Wednesday evening.
Initial reports from the Calabarzon Regional Police Office identified the victims as Manolito Alcantara, a member of the Civilian Armed Auxiliary, and his son Randy Alcantara, 29, both of Sitio Hacienda, Brgy. Inabuan, San Francisco town.
The victims were having dinner inside their house when three armed suspects, one of them identified as Joseph Delos Santos alias “Bingot,” shot them at close range at 7:30 p.m.
Manolito Alcantara died on the spot. Randy was rushed to the San Francisco Municipal Hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival.
Like Marcos, Duterte “can be ousted” by the people “through the convergence of various political forces in a broad united front,” Sison, the President’s former professor, said.
The President “overestimates” the capability of the military whose “total armed strength of 170,000 in an archipelago of 115,000 square miles,” Sison claimed.
By concentrating attacks on communists currently in Mindanao, this will pave way to a nationwide expansion of martial law to other parts of the country, including Luzon and in Visayas, Sison said.
“As the unnecessary and egregious martial rule by Duterte will expand nationwide, the violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the people will surpass the rate and proportions of martial rule under the Marcos fascist dictatorship,” he added.
Sison, however, said the CPP and NPA would be happy “with the limitation of bloodshed,” and with the resumption of peace negotiations between the National Democratic Front and the government “under a new president or a transitory people’s commission”—but not under Duterte.