PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday denied claims he wants to declare martial law to extend his term in office.
But Duterte talked tough, threatening to kill provincial governors involved in drugs after saying the same to mayors last week, and ordered security forces to bomb kidnap gangs even if they held hostages.
Speaking before the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the President stressed he had no ambition to prolong his stay in power.
“Those in Manila, who are thinking about martial law, lengthening your stay. That’s b***s***…Am I exceedingly happy being the President of the Philippines? I will answer you — I do not need the position at this time of my life,” he said.
Duterte however criticized the constitutional restrictions on martial law and said that if he had his way, declaring such would be the President’s sole prerogative.
“You know these martial law provisions to defend the country, [they were destroyed by the]Cory [Aquino] administration, because of their hangover on martial law,” he said, referring to the regime of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.
Duterte said he would place the entire country under martial law only when needed to “protect and preserve the safety of the people.”
“I have to protect the Filipino people, and I tell you now, if I have to declare martial law, I will declare it,” the President said.
“I will declare Martial Law to preserve my nation. The right to preserve one’s life and my country transcends everything else,” he added.
Duterte has been talking about declaring martial law as an option. In August, he asked Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno if she would rather have the President declare martial law after the chief magistrate opposed Duterte’s public naming of judges allegedly involved in drugs.
In October, Duterte again floated the idea of declaring martial law because of the illegal drug trade, during a meeting with the Jewish community at a Makati City synagogue.
Governors to be summoned
After his threat to kill mayors involved in drugs, Duterte plans to issue the same stern “I will kill you” warning to governors.
“I’ll be calling the governors by next week. I will really tell them, you tell your barangay (village) captains…you have supervisory powers over them. Reiterate to them…you can’t lecture all people, but don’t get too confident with me. Papatayin talaga kita [I will really kill you], believe me. I will look for an ambush, poison you. It’s true. I am not backing down on this,” Duterte said.
“If it (killing) causes my downfall, so be it. If I’m ousted, glad to go out. Coup d’état? Fine. Let’s have a change, but I won’t back down. I will end this until the very last day. If it takes me six years, then six years will be it,” Duterte said.
Duterte also told Davao businessmen he had ordered security forces to bomb escaping kidnap-for-ransom gangs, even if they are carrying hostages.
“My order for the Navy, Coast Guard, as long as there is a kidnapping incident and these abductors tried to escape…pasabugin mo na silang lahat [bomb them all]. As for the hostage…sorry, collateral damage,” he said.
Duterte also confirmed the arrest of 26-year-old Datu Mohammad Abduljabbar Sema—one of the suspects in the September Davao City blast—at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport upon his arrival from Bangkok aboard Air Asia flight AK 891 last November 2016.
LLANESCA T. PANTI