PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte may "soon" be forced to use his emergency powers, such as the promulgation of martial law in Negros Oriental, due to the spate of violence in the province, Malacañang said on Thursday, August 1.
"It appears to be soon," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo told Palace reporters, when asked when this would happen.
"He has many options under the Constitution. He can call the armed forces to quell lawless violence. He can declare martial law," he added.
Asked if such plan is constitutional, the Palace official said: "Yes. Because the Constitution says you can declare martial law in the entire country or parts thereof."
Section 18, Article 7 of the 1987 Constitution states that a president can declare martial law and suspend writ of habeas corpus for a period not exceeding 60 days, in case of invasion or rebellion.
Panelo made the remark following the series of killings in Negros Oriental.
The entire Negros Island, composed of Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental provinces, is among the areas covered by Memorandum Order No. 32, which mandates the deployment of additional policemen and soldiers to suppress lawless violence.
Panelo said the deployment of more than 300 Special Action Force (SAF) operatives is not enough to stop the killings of civilians in the province.
He stressed that the President needs to take "stringent" measures to put an end to violence in Negros Oriental.
"From the judgment of the President, it appears to be so, especially he mentioned last night that mas marami ang sumusporta ngayon sa mga NPA (many are supporting the NPA now)," Panelo said, when asked if SAF commandos cannot totally quell lawless acts in the province.
"The President doesn't want this (spate of killings in Negros Oriental) to happen. He wants it stop. The only way to do that is to use his emergency powers," he added.
Since July 18, 17 people have been killed across Negros Oriental, starting with the four police officers who were allegedly executed by the communist New People's Army.
Among those killed in a span of 10 days after July 18 were lawyer Anthony Trinidad in Guihulngan City, former Ayungon mayor Edsel Enardecido, Canlaon City councilor Ramon Jalandoni, village chairman Ernesto Posadas of Panubigan in Canlaon City, school principal Arthur Buyawa in Guihulngan City, and village chairman Romeo Alipan in Buenavista, Guihulngan City.
Only Mindanao is under martial law, although the entire country is under a state of emergency as Duterte has yet to lift Proclamation No. 55.
This proclamation, issued on September 4, 2016, declared a state of emergency in the Philippines in response to the 2016 Davao City bombing. (SunStar Philippines)