Duterte order to deploy troops stumps Lacson
Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Sunday said Memorandum Order No. 32 (MO 32) was baffling, as President Duterte could deploy more troops to the provinces just by giving orders to the military.
Lacson asked whether the memorandum was part of a plan for the declaration of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.
The President issued on Thursday MO 32 authorizing the deployment of more soldiers and policemen to three provinces in the Visayas and a province in the Bicol region to “suppress lawless violence and acts of terror” in those parts of the country.
The order also authorized intensification of intelligence operations and the investigation and prosecution of people behind “acts of violence.”
In announcing the order on Friday, Malacañang cited a number of recent deadly attacks in Samar (Eastern Visayas), Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental (Western Visayas), and Camarines Sur (Bicol).
On Sunday, Lacson, a former chief of the Philippine National Police, asked why a memorandum was necessary when all the President needed to do was order the Armed Forces chief of staff or the secretary of national defense to deploy more forces to the four areas.
“Can it be that this is headed to a plan of Malacañang to declare martial law or suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus?” Lacson said in a radio interview.
Lacson said, however, that there was no problem with the memorandum because the President had the constitutional authority to call out the military to suppress lawless violence or rebellion in the entire or any part of the country.
Vice President Leni Robredo on Sunday welcomed the order, but said “distrust” remained because “people are afraid that this would be a platform to declare martial law.”
Speaking on her radio program, Robredo said many people were spooked by the term “lawless violence,” as it was one of the grounds that may be invoked to declare martial law.
She also said that the Duterte administration should look into the resurgence of the communist insurgency, claiming that “it was almost gone” under previous administrations.
The Palace has explained MO 32 is a “support measure” against terrorism, not a step toward military rule.
The President himself has said he did not need to declare martial law to deal with lawless violence.
“Why will I declare martial law? I can just arrest you and kill you if you don’t stop,” he said in a speech in Cavite province on Thursday.
Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison denounced the order as “part of the vicious de facto martial law and tyranny, preparatory to the formal declaration of martial law, screwing up of the 2019 elections, [amendment of the Constitution] for bogus federalism, and [the]establishment of fascist dictatorship a la Marcos.”
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Saturday gave assurance that the order was not a prelude to martial law, explaining that Mr. Duterte’s directive was intended to thwart the communist rebels’ plan to extort money from candidates in next year’s midterm elections in “critical areas.”
Lorenzana said the areas covered by MO 32 were “critical areas, especially during elections, because they are controlled by the NPA (New People’s Army).”
The defense secretary said politicians were not allowed to campaign in those areas unless they paid the NPA, the armed wing of the CPP.
“We are alert for the possibility that the NPA will interfere in the elections, either by controlling the movement of candidates or they will campaign in favor of some of the candidates. So it will be an unfair electoral contest,” Lorenzana said.
He said Sison was only making up the martial law story “to get attention.”
Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, spokesperson for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said on Saturday that the military supported “the intent” of the President’s order.
Also on Saturday, the PNP said it would deploy a company of elite Special Action Forces (SAF) to the four provinces covered by MO 32.
Chief Supt. Benigno Durana Jr., a spokesperson for the PNP, said the police and the military were assessing the threat level in the four provinces.
Durana said the joint public peace and security coordinating committee of the PNP and the AFP would meet this week to synchronize operations of the two services.
He said the President’s order was intended not only to stop extortion by the communist rebels in next year’s elections, but also any act of violence or terrorism that the insurgents might carry out to celebrate their 50th anniversary on Dec. 26.
DOJ probe team
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said on Saturday that the Department of Justice (DOJ) might form a special team to investigate and prosecute people who would be arrested for lawless violence or terrorism.
“We’ll play it by ear. If lawless violence persists, the DOJ may consider creating a special task force for the purpose,” Guevarra said in a statement. —Reports from Faye Orellana, Jeannette I. Andrade, Vince F. Nonato and Jerome Aning
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