Politics

Duterte threatens martial law to crackdown on dissent amid pandemic

By Sara Gomez Armas

Manila, Apr 28 (efe-epa).- The president of the Philippines has threatened to invoke martial law if communist rebels and dissidents interfered in the government’s efforts to check the COVID-19 outbreak.

After downplaying the impact of coronavirus in February and urging the people not to panic, Rodrigo Duterte has given the security forces a central role in his COVID-19 strategy, leading to human rights violations due the martial law like restrictions.

The martial law implies a state of emergency in which constitutional protections are suspended and extra powers are given to law enforcement agencies to deal with emergencies such as wars and rebellions.

The nearly seven weeks of lockdown in the country has so far resulted in the detention of 120,000 people, the entry of security personnel on private properties without permission, charges of spreading fake news, and two deaths near a police checkpoint.

At a press conference on 1 April, Duterte urged law enforcement officers to shoot if people did not obey the quarantine rules enforced in the country.

Amid the crisis, clashes with the Maoist-inspired insurgents, or the New People’s Army (NPA) have continued, despite a ceasefire at the start of the outbreak in the country.

While the rebels extended their ceasefire as the crisis continued, the government opted against following suit when it expired on 15 April, in response to the killing of two soldiers by alleged members of the NPA last week.

“If you continue your lawlessness, killings here and there, and it’s happening all over the Philippines, maybe I will declare martial law because you NPAs are number one (enemy). You get the aid for the people, even their supplies, food,” Duterte warned in a televised address on Friday.

Experts have raised questions about whether the current clashes with the rebels provide sufficient justification for imposing martial law.

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