MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang and the military gave assurances to the public that President Rodrigo Duterte did not mean a repetition of Marcos regime abuses if he declares martial law a second time.
"It does not include at all references to any human rights abuse," said Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella on Monday, June 19, during a Palace press briefing.
He was agreeing with Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla's interpretation of Duterte's words.
In the same press briefing, Padilla said, "The President will not be referring to abuses. He may refer to the breadth and depth of how to impose [martial law]." (READ: CHR reminds gov't: Protect human rights in martial law implementation)
"After all, in the pronouncement and declaration of martial law, didn't he say if you are a law-abiding citizen and you're a peace-loving citizen, martial law is not a problem you should worry about," said the military spokesman.
He assured the public that the AFP "will always guarantee the safety of each citizen who [is] doing the right things and not the wrong things." (READ: DND to AFP: Uphold rule of law, human rights in Mindanao)
Padilla added that Duterte could not have been talking of a repeat of human rights abuses by an all-powerful military because his interaction with the media when he made these remarks was lighthearted and humorous.
"The banter was light so he could not have meant that, abuses and all about martial law…Not in the extent of abuses, we can be sure of that," said Padilla.
If Padilla and Abella are to be believed, it's also unlikely that Duterte literally meant he would withdraw troops from Marawi City if the SC decides martial law has no factual basis and should be lifted.
Padilla even said such a decision would be "foolhardy" if there is still a terror threat in Marawi City.
"Offensives will continue because there is a threat that is being faced and it would be foolhardy to stop the fight because martial law was lifted," he said.
The lifting of martial law does not necessarily require the withdrawal of troops. For the military, it would only mean they will have to once again ask courts for arrest warrants. Martial law allows government forces to detain suspects even without an arrest warrant but they must file a case 3 days after or the suspect will be released.
Abella was also asked to comment on the apparent contradiction between Duterte saying he would respect any SC ruling on martial law but would declare a second martial law without consulting anybody if "anything goes wrong" after the High Court's decision.
Abella said there is no contradiction.
"It doesn't mean to say he will not go by the force of law. He will still do that except that he will go by his perception of whether public safety is jeopardized or not," said Duterte's spokesman.
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.