For Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, martial law is not yet needed amid the continuous efforts of the national government to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019.
"As of today and yesterday, hindi naman kailangan pa," Año told reporters.
According to Año, a former military chief, declaring martial law would depend on whether there will be a threat against public order and safety amid the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.
"Kung magkakaroon naman ng tinatawag na threat to public safety and merong disorder... Halimbawa, nagtake-advantage 'yung CPP-NPA, 'yung mga organized crime groups, tapos 'yung mga tao naman ay nagloo-looting at mas marami na 'yung nati-threatened... dumating na siya sa tinatawag na chaotic and disorder na talagang there is really a threat to national security, nasa option ng Pangulo 'yan, puwede naman niyang gamitin 'yan," Año explained.
Año's remark came after President Rodrigo Duterte's chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo said the Chief Executive could declare martial law due to the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
It is stated in the 1987 Constitution that the president can only declare martial law when there is a case of invasion and rebellion. Panelo, however, argued that the definition of invasion had evolved and should not be confined to the use of armed forces to occupy another country.
"There is an actual invasion of the coronavirus disease which is [a] pandemic. It threatens, in fact, the entire country,” Panelo had said.
Reacting to Panelo's statement that COVID-19 had "invaded" the country, Año said: "Wala, joke lang 'yun kasi nakalagay doon sa ano, a martial law can be declared when there is rebellion or invasion."
In a separate statement, AFP spokesman Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo said there has been no discussion yet about martial law declaration on the part of the military.
"The declaration of martial law and the bases thereof depend upon the wise determination and prudent discretion of the President," Arevalo said.
Arevalo said the AFP has been focused on assisting in the government's effort to fight COVID-19 as well as in eradicating the criminal acts of local terrorist groups.
"At this time, our sights remain focused keenly on how to help national and local governments to curve 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 said.
Earlier, Duterte warned that he might declare martial rule if communist rebels continue to attack and kill security forces who were delivering food assistance to various communities. — RSJ, GMA News