President Rodrigo Duterte will soon use his emergency powers to end the spate of violence on Negros Island, the Palace said Thursday.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the Chief Executive will likely place the entire province of Negros islands under martial law to quell lawless violence in the region that has seen about 30 murders in just a few weeks.
“The Chief Executive is cautioning the enemies of the state in the island of Negros that he will use his emergency powers under the Constitution to quell the lawless violence engulfing the island, as well as to crush all forms of threats aimed to destroy the government,” Panelo said in a statement issued Wednesday.
On a separate occasion, he said the entire Negros Island might be placed under martial law because the communist insurgents have earned more sympathizers amid the widespread unrest.
“NPA [New People’s Army] have more supporters now. They’re taking advantage of the conflict due to land issues,” Panelo told Palace reporters.
Asked when will the President use his emergency powers, Panelo said: “It appears to be soon.”
“The communist rebels have exploited the land unrest and turned the province into a quasi-state. They have arbitrarily chosen who will own the lands subject of the controversies surrounding them,” he said.
Malacañang also warned the NPA that Duterte has no qualms about committing atrocities against rebels.
Panelo said the previous declaration of emergency powers in 2016 seems to be not enough in handling unrest in Negros Oriental.
The country has been under a state of national emergency due to “lawless violence” since 2016, after a bomb exploded in Davao City, killing 14 people.
The President has the power to declare a “state of national emergency” even without authorization from Congress. However, the exercise of emergency powers requires approval from Congress.
The spokesman also said Duterte will heed the advice of the military “on the ground” if martial law is necessary.
“Certainly, he will always follow the advice of people in the know,” Panelo said.
“He can call Armed Forces to declare lawless violence. He can declare martial law,” he added.
President Duterte is blaming the killings on rebels, including the murder and torture of four policemen in Ayungon town, Negros Oriental.
Duterte had raised to P5 million as reward money for the capture of the killers, dead or alive.
The government initially offered P1.3 million for the capture of the murderers, and later raised it to P3 million.
The President dangled an additional reward of P100,000 for anyone who participated in the killing.
At least 21 people have been killed in Negros Oriental from July 18 to 27. These include a barangay captain, a city councilor, a former mayor, and a one-year-old child.
The Philippine National Police also deployed 300 of its elite Special Action Force troops to help local police units.
Panelo said the troops appear insufficient, in the President’s view.
Negros Oriental police chief Colonel Raul Tacaca was sacked on Wednesday
, following the murders.
In November 2018, Duterte had issued Memorandum Order No. 32 deploying more cops and soldiers to Negros province, aside from Samar and the Bicol region.
Government troops have arrested four members of the NPA, two of them who are believed to be involved in the killing of four policemen.
Based on a police report, government security forces arrested Onie Bangala, 37, of Sitio Inasan, Barangay Carol-an, Ayungon; and farmers Epifanio Cabusog Romano; Rico Oracoy, 39; and Lito Cadusale; all of Barangay Mabato, Ayungon.
Bangala was arrested July 26 by policemen and soldiers after an encounter with suspected communist rebels while doing a tactical operation in the mountains of Ayungon, Mabinay, and Bindoy.
He was arrested along with another suspect, Nerie Boy Bangala, 25.
Nerie Boy Bangala managed to flee while authorities were questioning Onie.
However, authorities managed to seize from their possession a homemade shotgun with magazine, two caliber .38 revolvers with five live ammunition, a 7.62 mm live ammunition, 18 ammunition for 7.62 mm, 20 empty shells for 7.62 mm, and 192 empty shells for M16 Armalite rifle, five 5ml syringes, two knives and a rifle grenade, among other items.
Romano, meanwhile, was nabbed by authorities July 29 after an encounter with a group of alleged NPA members in Sitio Talaptapan, Barangay Nalundan, Bindoy where a 20-minute firefight ensued.
No casualty was reported as the suspected NPAs withdrew.
Romano yielded a black bandolier and a rifle grenade. He was later turned over to the Bindoy Police for the filing of charges.
On the same day, Oracoy and Cadusale, believed to be escaping from the Bindoy encounter, were arrested at a checkpoint in Sitio Yamot, Mabato, Ayungon.
The two are believed to be involved in the killing of the four intel cops on July 18.
Confiscated from them were two caliber .38 revolvers with 10 live ammunition, a rifle grenade, two improvised explosive devices, a black bandolier, an eco bag and a plastic bag.
All of the four are now in police custody. With PNA
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