By Priam Nepomuceno
MANILA: The decision to declare martial law in the wake of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) outbreak lies solely with President Rodrigo R. Duterte, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Tuesday.
Lorenzana made the remark when sought for a comment on Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo’s pronouncements that the Chief Executive can impose martial law due to the Covid-19 “invasion”.
“Secretary Panelo is technically correct that this is an invasion. The virus came from abroad and in fact, it has invaded the whole world. But this is primarily a health issue, a war against a deadly and highly contagious virus,” he said in a message to reporters.
As of Monday, the Philippines has recorded 9,485 confirmed Covid-19 cases while posting 1,315 recoveries and 623 deaths.
“Whether it is ground for ML (martial law) or not, it is up to the President,” he added.
Lorenzana’s views were shared by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
“The declaration of martial law and the bases thereof depend upon the wise determination and prudent discretion of the President,” AFP spokesperson, Marine Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, said in a press statement.
Arevalo added that the power to declare martial law in the wake of the Covid-19 threat is within the powers of the Commander-in-Chief, subject to the concurrence of both houses of Congress.
He, however, said there has been no such discussion so far in the AFP because the military is focused on helping the national and local governments in containing the Covid-19 threats and defeating terrorist groups operating in the country.
“At this time, our sights remain focused keenly on how to help national and local governments to curb the pandemic, sustain our irreversible gains in further degrading the communist terrorist group, and defeat decisively other local terrorist groups, like the Abu Sayyaf Group and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters,” he added.