Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said on Monday, January 16, that he is ready to support the declaration of martial law should his boss, President Rodrigo Duterte, declare it. But at the same time, he thinks it’s unlikely that the former Davao City mayor would go to those extremes.
“By all means, we will support the President if he declares [martial law] but I doubt he will. He just said that out of frustration over the situation, out of anger, but I doubt he will do that,” said Dela Rosa in a press conference at Camp Crame.
The PNP chief also said Duterte only thinks about that “option” during times when he is “frustrated, exasperated with what he’s seeing.”
Added Dela Rosa: “But still, he knows that he wouldn’t do that if the reasons aren’t enough. There’s a chance he won’t declare. He won’t do that but if he sees that the situation is hopeless, his decisiveness will kick in.”
In a January 14 speech in Davao City, Duterte said that if the situation in the Philippines turns “virulent,” he would declare martial law if he “wants” to. The President did not specify what those “virulent” situations could be but he was defending his controversial war on drugs before he made those remarks.
While Dela Rosa downplayed Duterte’s remarks, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar claimed media “misreported” the President’s speech.
It’s not the first time Duterte has flirted with the idea of declaring martial law – at least in public speeches.
At the same time, Duterte has said that declaring martial law would be “futile.”
A Philippine president can only declare martial law “in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it,” according to the Constitution. The president will also have to submit a report within 48 hours to Congress, which can opt to revoke the declaration. The Supreme Court can also decide if there is basis to declare martial law if a petition is filed before it.
Martial law may only last 60 days unless Congress votes to extend it.
Pressed on what could have pushed Duterte to make his most recent remarks on martial law, Dela Rosa, who has known the President since the late 80s, said: “You better ask the President about that because he’s a lawyer. I’m not a lawyer. All I know is that if martial law is declared, I will support it.”
Dela Rosa previously said he is against martial law, mostly because of his own experience of abuse at the hands of the Philippine Constabulary during the regime of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Echoing Duterte, Dela Rosa said that if martial law is declared, he would make sure that its implementors are not abusive.
“If the implementors are abusive, well, the security forces have learned a lot from history. Why was there People Power? Because of the abuses of martial law, right? So if you don’t want a revolution, do not abuse martial law. You do martial law properly,” the PNP chief said.
People Power or the EDSA Revolution was a series of protests that eventually put an end to Marcos’ decades-long regime, which was marred by enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and corruption.