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Palace clarifies Duterte statement: No imminent martial law declaration

Government officials on Wednesday clarified the statement of President Rodrigo Duterte about the possibility of declaring martial law.

"No imminent declaration, unless of course sabi ide-declare, this area. I mean, if conditions, if the necessary conditions are there, but if and when that really demands a process," presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a press briefing in Macañang. 

In the Senate, meanwhile, Duterte's communications chief Martin Andanar described the possibility of the president declarin martial law as "far from reality."

“And it never crossed the mind of the President. It was only mentioned because it was asked,” Andanar told reporters in an interview. 

Duterte on Tuesday night said he considers martial law as a “contingency to meet widespread violence.” The President however was quick to clarify that he was not a “fan” of the idea, being a lawyer himself. 

Andanar said what Duterte meant was that it was a “back-up plan in case things go offhand, out of hand.” 

“Lahat naman ng posibilidad sa ilalim ng batas ay open kaya nga siya posibilidad diba? So any eventuality will have to be also faced with a certain action in government,” Andanar said. 

“Like for instance, ‘yung sinabi ng Pangulo na nag-escalate ‘yung violence to a point that it can no longer be controlled, then that’s probably the reason why the President mentioned that martial law is a contingency plan,” he added. 

Duterte made the remark on martial law as he responded to fears that his earlier statement on the possibility of suspending the writ of habeas corpus may eventually lead to martial law. On November 13, Duterte in a speech honoring his mother Soledad Duterte, an anti-martial law activist, brought up the possibility of suspending the writ of habeas corpus to fight terrorism.

Andanar said Duterte’s statement suspending the writ of habeas corpus was a “warning” to terrorists and drug lords that the government will stop at nothing to arrest them. 

“It is [his way of] merely telling those guys or even the terrorists or even those who plan to terrorize our people and the drug lords na we can do this para mahuli kayo. It’s a warning,” he said.

Abella, meanwhile, said Duterte was just informing the public and warning the lawless elements of what he could do should their activities continue. 

"The statement that he made, really comes from the fact that he’s underlining the—he’s underlining our awareness and necessary consciousness of the--of the growing impunity, apparent impunities especially in certain areas of Mindanao where certain groups, actually are travelling already into other areas of example, threatening to enter Cebu, the Visayas. When, so basically what he was doing is that should this escalate and the conditions are set, then he could. But this is simply a warning and that it is just a possibility, this is not actual statement that says it will happen," Abella said. —JST, GMA News