DAVAO CITY, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – Malacañang blasted media for "misreporting" President Rodrigo Duterte's remarks about declaring martial law if he "wants to."
"The President has categorically said no to martial law. He even made a pronouncement saying that martial law did not improve the lives of Filipinos. We therefore decry the latest misreporting that the President will declare martial law simply 'if he wants to' or that 'no one can stop the President from declaring martial law,'" said Communications Secretary Martin Andanar in a statement on Sunday, January 15.
Andanar, himself a former journalist, called such reporting "irresponsible."
"Such headlines sow panic and confusion to many. We consider this kind of reportage as the height of journalistic irresponsibility," he said.
Andanar sought to clarify that Duterte was "clear" in saying he would only declare martial law "under the premise that the country has deteriorated into an utter state of rebellion and lawlessness."
However, in video recordings of his speech, Duterte said "insurrection" would not be his reason for declaring martial law.
Watch the part of Duterte's speech about martial law here:
Rather than be clear about his possible reasons, Duterte said he would declare martial law if the situation in the country becomes "virulent."
Andanar also said Duterte "recognizes" the limitations set by the 1987 Constitution in order to prevent abuse of martial law.
"As President, he recognizes the challenges and limitations set by our Constitution in declaring martial law but he would nonetheless act accordingly if it warrants the preservation of the nation," he said.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II meanwhile added in a text to reporters on Sunday that the President was taken out of context.
"It was just an expression of anger from the President. He was exasperated by the continuous illegal drug operations in the country despite intensified efforts by the government," Aguirre said.
Aguirre added the remarks were "understandable." He urged the media and the public not to "make a fuss" about the remark, adding, "The public and the media should not be surprised and rather be already accustomed to this mindset of the President."
Duterte said on Saturday night: "Wala akong pakialam diyan sa (I don't care about the) Supreme Court because of the right to preserve one's life and my nation. My country transcends everything else, even the limitation."
The President also said, "Wala na iyang (There'll be no more) 60 days, 60 days," referring to the requirement of the Constitution that martial law can only last 60 days unless Congress votes to extend it.
Three days after the President's statement, Chief Presidential Counsel Salvador Panelo offered his own clarification.
Panelo said in a statement on Tuesday, January 17, that Duterte's remarks are "but a dramatic and graphic representation of an exercise of a presidential power and duty imposed on him by the Constitution."
"It is not a threat or an advance announcement of an imminent exercise of an emergency power; rather, it is a warning to those who are bent on destroying the fabric of society that President Duterte will not watch in utter helplessness in its destruction," he said.
"It is also an assurance to the people that he will not equivocate in using a constitutional power to preserve the integrity and survival of the nation," Panelo added. – 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.