'Parang martial law': Duterte warns troops to take over if Filipinos break quarantine

MANILA, Philippines – Overwhelmed by the coronavirus outbreak in the country, President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday, April 16, threatened to order the police and the military to take over if Filipinos continue to break lockdown rules intended to contain the spread of the infectious disease.

"I am just asking for your disiplina, kasi 'pag ayaw ninyong maniwala, mag-take over ang military at police. I am ordering them now to be ready. Ang police at military ang mag-enforce sa social distancing at curfew. Parang martial law na rin. Mamili kayo," a visibly exasperated Duterte said during an address broadcasted on Thursday evening.

(I am asking for your discipline, because if you don't want to believe, the military and police will take over. I am ordering them now to be ready. The police and the military will enforce social distancing and curfew. It would be like martial law. You choose.)

This comes after Duterte received reports of Filipinos who continue to violate quarantine rules. During the earlier part of his speech, the President expressed frustration in containing the virus and providing social relief for disenfranchised Filipinos who are forced to stay at home during the lockdown.

This is the strongest statement to come out of Duterte in calling on Filipinos to follow procedures since he declared a lockdown over the entire island region of Luzon in mid-March. He said earlier in Febuary that police and military will enforce the law during the outbreak.

This is the first time, however, that he alluded to martial law – a measure deemed to be valid only in extreme conditions due to possible abuse – and a "takeover" of uniformed personnel. Currently, cops and soldiers are working with officials and volunteer civilians from barangays to enforce the lockdown measures.

"Kaunting tiis lang (Just bear with it a little more)," Duterte said.

He said he could hand down the order as early as "next week."

As of Thursday, the Philippines has 5,660 coronavirus cases, with 362 deaths and 435 recoveries. The number of infections worldwide surpassed 2 million, while over 137,000 people have died across 193 countries and territories. – with a report from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.