MALACAÑANG assured the public yesterday that there would be no return of dictatorial rule under President Rodrigo Duterte amid fears that the tough-talking leader is set to place the entire country under martial law to quell security threats.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the government and the military have not abused their powers since the martial law declaration inMindanao on May 23 after firefights erupted between state forces and Islamic State-inspired terrorists in Marawi City.
He said Duterte’s martial law is different from the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos’ authoritarian rule, which saw killings and enforced disappearances of activists and opposition figures.
“This is not the same martial law that we had in 1972. Courts remain functioning, Congress remains existing, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution is enforced,” Roque, a human rights lawyer, said in a news briefing.
“So I don’t think there’s been any legal basis for the fears of many that there will be the return of dictatorial rule. Neither have there been any systematic or gross violations of human rights so far,” he said.
Earlier, Duterte hailed Congress’ approval of his request to extend martial law in Mindanao for another year, saying this would provide the government a “big window” in fighting terrorism.
He had sought the extension citing persistent threats from terror groups in the region, including communist rebels. Critics, however, said the extension could be a prelude to the declaration of martial law in the entire country, considering that the supposed threat posed by communist rebels were cited as new grounds.