MANILA – Saying all he needed to unleash the full force of the State’s uniformed forces was an “overt act to destroy government,” President Rodrigo Duterte floated at the weekend the possibility of declaring martial law nationwide, citing this time supposed stepped-up campaigns by communist rebels.
“Raid ng mga istasyon dito. Kay wala man kayong istasyon, wala akong magantihan. Pero ‘yan ang hinihintay ko. ‘Yan talaga ang hinihintay ko. An overt act to destroy government and I will decide kung hanggang tayo — saan tayo aabot [You’ve been raiding government stations left and right. And I can’t easily retaliate because many of you strike from just anywhere. But I’m just waiting for that– an over act to destroy government and I will decide up to what extent we will take this war],” he told reporters in a free-wheeling interview after visiting wounded-in-action soldiers in Cagayan de Oro City late Saturday.
“I am prepared. I do not expect anything but I am prepared for everything,” added Duterte. He said the New People’s Army will be treated as mercilessly as te Maute Group if they choose to rebel, which then gives the State “the right to kill them.”
Dealing with the NPAs now has become harder, and they have become more brazen, he said; their front groups have become “active. Wala na silang tago-tago. Their meetings are in public. Hinayaan ko lang, sige. Pati ‘yung liga nila, mga leftist organization, harap-harapan na nakikipagkita na sila [Even their front organizations meet with them publicly. I just let them].”.
But he warned, they should not “commit the mistake of staging a rebellion. ‘Yung sabihin mo na there’s fighting on the streets.”
Then, he added, “I will not hesitate to impose martial law all throughout the country and order the arrest of everybody.”
He said, “hindi ako nananakot. Pero gagamitin ko talaga ang Armed Forces pati pulis [I’m not scaring you. But I will really unleash the Armed Forces, even the National Police].”
Duterte had early on in his term warmly welcomed leftist leaders, describing himself as a socialist and friend to leaders of the Left, including CPP founding chairman Jose Maria Sison. Those ties have since soured, with the latest blows coming from the rejection of two key leftist members of the Cabinet – DSWD’s Judy Taguiwalo and DAR’s Rafael Mariano – by the Commission on Appointments dominated by Duterte allies.
Not surprised by ML threat: Tinio
Reacting to the nationwide threat of martial law, ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio said he was not surprised by Duterte’s warning, because the President had already used up his two previous “excuses” for taking draconian measures that weakened constitutional rights: the war on illegal drugs, and the terrorist threat from the Maute Group.
“Matagal na siyang naghahanap ng dahilan para magdeklara ng martial law sa buong bansa. Bahagi ito ng kanyang hangaring maghari bilang diktador. Hindi umubra ang banta umano ng ISIS. Hindi rin bumenta ang banta ng narcopolitics na nilutang din niya [He has long been looking for a reason to declare martial law in the entire country. It’s part of his dream to be dictator. The threat of ISIS did not quite achieve the purpose. The threat of narcopolitics that he kept dangling was also not good enough].”
Now, Tinio said, Duterte is “recycling” the bogey used by his “idol” Ferdinand Marcos – communists. Tinio pointed out that both during EDSA 1 and 2, which were followed by regime change, there was never any bloody fighting on the streets. “Palaging naging mapayapa ang mga kilos protesta kahit umabot ito sa pagpapatalsik ng Presidente [The protests were always peaceful no matter how massive or even if they ended with the ouster of a President].”
Tinio exhorted the people to be vigilant, “at tiyakin ang anumang tangka ng Malacañang na gumawa ng probokasyon para sa pambansang Martial Law at paghandaan na ang paglaban dito [and ensure that any attempt by Malacañang to foist a provocation in order to find an excuse for nationwide martial law is blunted and we are all ready to fight it].”
9 years of martial law
Coming under relentless protests after winning what was seen as a fraud-marred reelection, Marcos suspended the writ of habeas corpus in 1971, before declaring martial law on Sept. 21, 1972. He lifted it in early 1981, but this was seen as just a “paper lifting,” and the protests continued, more so when chief critic Benigno Aquino Jr. was assassinated at the airport tarmac as he came home from exile in August 1983.
Amid constant demonstrations in 1985, Marcos called for snap presidential elections for February 1986, and the opposition groups united behind one candidate: Aquino’s widow Corazon. She lost the count amid allegations of fraud, but on February 22-25, millions, many drawn by the call for warm bodies by the archbishop of Manila, filled the main avenue on EDSA to support rebel soldiers supporting Marcos’ two key aides who had broken away: defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile and vice chief of staff Fidel Ramos.
Solitario ‘nego’ confirmed
Replying to a Davao-based reporter’s query, meanwhile, Duterte confirmed that former Mayor Omar Solitario was negotiate or attempted to negotiate with the Maute.
Solitario was commissioned by [Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus] Dureza, and “it was with the acquiescence, not expressly, [of Defense] Secretary [Delfin] Lorenzana,” according to Duterte.
“Dureza and I, Lorenzana, had a talk and they talked about the desire of Solitario to surrender because he found out that his name was on the list. Sabi niya, “I’m better off working for you than putting me in prison.”
“Then he proposed many things, mostly about talking peace to the Mautes or bargaining doon sa ‘yung mga hostages. More ako doon sa release ng hostages. I confirm that it really happened,” said the President.
Asked if he favored negotiations with the Maute, Duterte said, “They will be treated as criminals. If they surrender, they will be prosecuted. But they will be treated as human beings.”