SENATE President Aquilino Pimentel III on Sunday exhorted the public to remain vigilant as he admitted that martial law could be declared anytime in the near future or even on Sept. 21, the 45th anniversary of the declaration of martial law by President Ferdinand Marcos.
President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier threatened to declare martial law nationwide if lawlessness and anarchy reigned during the planned protest rallies against his administration to be staged by left-leaning organizations.
Duterte had warned the protesters not to resort to violence during their planned protests to mark Marcos’ declaration of martial law in 1972.
Insisting it was hard to predict whether or not martial law would be declared, Pimentel just reminded the public to be always vigilant.
“We are watching not just rebellion. We are also watching terrorism that can happen anytime,” Pimentel said.
“Imagine what happened in London. Nobody expected it would happen. The world is now different. Let us see what will happen on September 21.”
Pimentel said martial law would be justified if there was shooting on the streets.
But he acknowledged that the protest actions, rallies and other gatherings of people were allowed by the Constitution, but those gatherings must be peaceful.
“That’s freedom of assembly, so let us allow our people to be together to celebrate or protest, that is their right,” Pimentel said.
Senator JV Ejercito said martial law was a very sensitive issue, hence government officials should be very careful about what they say.
But Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the imposition of martial law was a remote possibility.
He said he did not believe the protesters had the capability to mount the type of mass actions that would warrant the declaration of martial law on Sept. 21.
Instead, he said Duterte might declare a holiday in government offices and schools in case the mass protests became too disruptive.
Lorenzana said the President saw no problem if the people wanted to express their grievances against his administration or even resort to burning his effigy as long as the protests remained peaceful.
Anti-government groups have been claiming that Duterte intends to place the entire country under martial law to be able to speed up the formation of a federal form of government.
He has repeatedly declared he will resign immediately once the federal system of government is in place.