MANILA, Philippines – Although faced with the difficulty of solving the country’s drug problem, President Duterte insisted yesterday he does not want to declare martial law. “Paano ko makaya ‘to? Hindi ko man ito madampot, patayin ko. Wala ‘yan, eh ayaw ko naman sa martial law (How do I resolve this? I cannot just pick them up, kill them. That’s not possible but I don’t want martial law),” Duterte said. Speaking on the 44th anniversary of the declaration of martial law during his visit at Camp Elias Angeles San Jose in Pili, Camarines Sur, Duterte said the drug problem had corrupted government officials and personnel, including members of the National Bureau of Investigation, the police and judges. “This will destroy your children, your grandchildren and the next generation,” he said, referring to the drug menace. Duterte is being assailed for rampant extrajudicial killings happening in the course of his war against illegal drugs even as he maintains that the government has nothing to do with such incidents.
He has tapped the Armed Forces of the Philippines to join the police in the drug war, along with the fight against terrorism as he placed the country under a state of national emergency due to lawless violence after the Sept. 2 Davao City bombing. Duterte had earlier said he was ready to bury the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani as a former president and war veteran. But he stressed he was no Marcos. Malacañang stressed no civil liberties were being curtailed and that the government was committed to due process and human rights that were sacrificed during martial law years, where atrocities were committed by uniformed authorities. In his speech, Duterte noted how the drug problem caused infighting among those involved. He directed Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to look into his latest list of 1,000 narco-politicians in a bid to prevent them from continuing their illicit trade. As a former prosecutor, Duterte said he assessed the names in the latest narco-politicians’ list one by one to determine if evidence would warrant the filing of cases against them. At the Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry Division in Camp Manuel Yan, Mawab, Compostela Valley on Tuesday, Duterte said it was important for him to have a strong military and police force that would not be corrupt so he could effectively lead the country. “I cannot run a country with a weak Armed Forces, and I cannot run a country with a corrupt police,” the President said. He said this was the reason he named the police generals allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade.
No intention Earlier yesterday, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said the President has no intention to declare martial law even if the option was presented to him during past discussions with close allies. Chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo admitted toying with the idea of “constitutional dictatorship” so Duterte could have powers over both the executive and legislative branches to speed up reforms. “Believe me, from what I have seen, he will not go for martial law. There are other (ways)… that would support his (campaign)… including the declaration of a simple state of lawless violence in Mindanao right now,” Esperon said at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay at Café Adriatico in Manila. “In fact, many have recommended the declaration of more stringent setups, including the declaration perhaps (of) martial law… but he did not go for it,” the former AFP chief said. Duterte, 71, can be cited for using an iron-hand strategy in addressing crimes and illegal drugs, but he is not a dictator, Esperon insisted. “So should we call him a constitutional dictator or do we call him a forceful law enforcer? Enforcer of the laws of the land, enforcer against criminality, enforcer for good governance,” Esperon added. On Duterte’s moniker as “The Punisher,” Esperon explained that the President was keen on seeking retribution for the criminals. “Yes, because he will have to punish. That’s exactly part of it, maybe an iron fist in enforcing the laws. He said, ‘What right do you have to manufacture or cook shabu and feed it to my children, to the next generation?’ I hope by now, we have realized the magnitude of the situation,” Esperon added. Reacting to the recommendation of Panelo for the President to declare a constitutional dictatorship, Esperon doubted Duterte would consider this since the Chief Executive had been advocating federalism. “I don’t know why constitutional authoritarianism would be associated with the President. All I know is that he is very strict, and he is bent on enforcing the laws of the land,” Esperon said. “He is a lawyer, and therefore he knows his rules but this is my take on it. I joined the campaign of (then Davao City) mayor Rodrigo Duterte on the common platform and that is federalism (which)… for me, is the key of the peace process in Mindanao,” Esperon added. “Let me tell you this, if a candidate for president is going for martial law or for authoritarian rule or for consolidation of powers in unilateral central government… why would he go for federalism which will break up the country into several states?” Esperon asked.
Business as usual Presidential Communications Office Secretary Martin Andanar said Sept. 21 was a regular working day so it was “governance as usual” but this “does not mean the significance of the day is lost to the collective memory of the nation.” He said the government was open to anti-Marcos protests but they must be done peacefully. Meanwhile, the Official Gazette noted the declaration of martial law should be commemorated on Sept. 23 and not Sept. 21. In its article, the OG said the announcement made by Marcos on live television occurred on Sept. 23, although the official date on Proclamation No. 1081 was Sept. 21. “Yet accounts differ… Two things emerge: first, whether they conflict or not, all accounts indicate that Marcos’ obsession with numerology (particularly the number seven) necessitated that Proclamation No. 1081 be officially signed on a date that was divisible by seven. Thus, Sept. 21, 1972 became the official date that martial law was established and the day that the Marcos dictatorship began. This also allowed Marcos to control history on his own terms,” it added. Marcos loyalists based in Australia and those in Pangasinan vowed to continue their call for a hero’s burial for Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City. Pearly Gardiner, public relations officer of Ilocano Associations of Australia, was quoted by the Ilocos Norte provincial government media office as saying they would organize vigil rallies and spearhead a signature campaign urging the burial of Marcos at the heroes’ cemetery. Some Pangasinenses, for their part, are insisting that thousands continue to benefit from the programs of the Marcos administration and the Bayanihan Bayan Movers Pangasinan Organization of Genuine Inhabitants is also calling for the late strongman’s hero’s burial.