MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte admitted that the extent of the Philippines' drug problem has tempted him to declare martial law.
"There are 6,000 barangay captains doing their own thing, manufacturing shabu. How am I supposed to deal with – sometimes I am tempted really to declare martial law," said Duterte on Tuesday night, October 4.
Duterte said he was told martial law was "not feasible," and so he settled on declaring a state of lawlessness instead.
"But it is not feasible, they say, well, fine. That's why I declared a state of lawlessness, because narco-politics has entered the country," he said.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea eventually told media that the supposedly alarming drug problem was part of Duterte's reasons for the declaration.
Duterte first threatened martial law could be part of his anti-illegal drugs war when he responded to the criticism of Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
But he has also said that he has no intention of declaring martial law to respect the memory of his mother, Soledad Roa Duterte, who was a leading activist against the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.
Duterte again lashed out at Senator Leila de Lima, his embattled critic in the Senate, for her supposed involvement in the illegal drug trade.
"The portals of the national government [were] already tainted with narco-politics when they elected Senator De Lima," he told his audience of foreign and Filipino Jews.
According to the Dangerous Drugs Board, there are 1.8 million drug users in the Philippines – a figure much lower than the 3 million estimate Duterte often cites.
In aid of his drug war, he has repeatedly given assurances that he will protect police and military from any criminal or administrative charges they might face for doing their "duty."
More than 3,600 deaths have been linked to Duterte's drug war. While the President said he is assuming "full responsibility" for the drug suspects killed during legitimate police operations, he maintained that extrajudicial killings are not sanctioned by the government. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.