MANILA – Malacañang on Monday rejected the claim by human rights group Karapatan that the country is currently experiencing a “de facto martial law” under the leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte.
In a virtual presser, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the situation under Duterte administration is very different from the martial law declared by former President Ferdinand Marcos in 1972.
Martial law under Marcos is considered one of the darkest chapters of Philippine history.
He cited lessons he learned as a law student in the University of the Philippines.
“Ay, naku po. Alam ninyo po, ako lumaki ako sa martial law, nag-law school po ako. Walang Saligang Batas, freedom Constitutionlamang (You know, I grew up during martial law, I studied law. There was only a freedom Constitution before),” he said.
He claimed that the President no longer has the power to shut down Congress and Supreme Court.
“Ang masasabi ko po ibang-iba na po ang konteksto ngayon, dati-rati po naisasara ang Kongreso, naisasara ang Supreme Court. Ngayon po, wala nang ganiyang kapangyarihan ang Presidente (What I can say is the context is different now. Before, the Congress and Supreme Court were shut down. But now, the President does not have that power),” he said.
Because Filipinos have learned the lessons of martial law, Roque said the declaration of martial law can now be questioned before the Congress and courts.
“Ang deklarasyon ng martial law ngayon pupuwedeng kuwestiyunin sa Kongreso, pupuwedeng kuwestiyunin sa hukuman dahil nga po natuto na tayo sa mapait na karanasan natin sa martial law noong 1970 (The declaration of martial law can be questioned before the Congress, can be questioned before the courts because we have learned from our bitter experience during the martial law during the 1970s),” he said.
Karapatan, in an earlier statement, claimed quarantine measures imposed to contain the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) have resulted in a spike in human rights violations. It added that human rights defenders are being illegally arrested on falsified charges or brutally killed.
Last April, Duterte said he might only be compelled to declare martial rule in the event that lawlessness of the communist movement’s armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), persists.He, however, clarified that he never made a pronouncement that he would declare a martial law amid the pandemic.