By Christina Mendez
MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang assured the people yesterday that President Duterte will not expand martial law nationwide as protesters vowed to prevent the return of Ferdinand Marcos’ brand of military rule.
Responding to the rallyists’ calls for an end to tyranny, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte would not expand martial law to Luzon and the Visayas despite mounting protests against extrajudicial killings, abuses and corruption.
Duterte imposed martial law in the whole of Mindanao after members of the Maute terror group attacked Marawi City on May 23.
The imposition of martial law in Mindanao as well as the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus were eventually extended by Congress until the end of this year.
In a press briefing in Marawi, Duterte said he is ready to lift martial law in Mindanao once the government gets total control of the city.
Duterte visited the 103rd Infantry Brigade of the Army at Camp Ranao where he also told the military that they will just quietly pack up their equipment and belongings once the battle is over.
He reiterated that there will be no celebration of victory, noting the many lives lost and the havoc caused by the long-drawn battle with Islamic terrorists.
Amid yesterday’s massive protests, Abella noted that Duterte has emphasized many times that the administration respects every Filipino’s right to peaceably assemble and seek redress against the government.
“Again and again, inulit niya hindi iyan ang patutunguan natin,” he said, shooting down any possibility of martial law declaration by the Chief Executive.
Abella reiterated that Duterte has time and again stressed that he will allow everybody to join protest rallies, and Malacañang had even declared yesterday as a National Day of Protest.
“He is allowing the protest, as long as the (rallyists) will not resort to violence and the destruction of property, in which case the response will be firm. But if you refer to martial law, he won’t (declare it),” Abella said.
“In fact, even at the start, the President has tried to reach out to just about everybody, left to right. And again he started out with having a rainbow Cabinet … including left, including right, top bottom,” he added.
Abella then reminded that the Chief Executive has been sincere in his intent to ensure that nobody will be left out in his administration.
“So, sa simula’t sapul po ang (even from the start) President has been very inclusive and one thing, in his line – a comfortable life for all. In other words, damang dama po ng Presidente ang hinaing ng tao and again and again, especially he is against corruption, crime and abuses,” he said.
Abella said the national day of protest is a healthy exercise in democracy.
“This is also an opportune time for those in the government to hear the voice of the governed as part of our efforts to uphold the highest standards of good governance,” the Palace spokesman said in a statement.
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said the declaration of national day of protest dispelled notions that Duterte is a tyrant.
“The President is showing the world that he is not tyrannical as the opposition claimed,” Andanar told state-run Radyo Pilipinas in an interview.
Thousands of demonstrators from multisectoral groups converged in Rizal Park, Manila to protest the extrajudicial killings and the possible declaration of martial law nationwide.
Senior Supt. Bartolome Bustamante, deputy chief of the Police Community Relations Group of the Philippine National Police, said 1,000 policemen were on standby and ready for deployment to secure the protest rally in Rizal Park.
Meanwhile, presidential daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio lamented how the organizers of the protest rally reportedly used children.
The mayor reacted to a report she received on Facebook regarding the supposed participation of about 60 indigenous children in the protest rally in Davao City yesterday.
The mayor pointed out that the protesters do not even have a budget for medicines if the children get sick.
“Magkasakit mga bata adto dayon mo sa Lingap ug DSWD (When the children get sick you immediately run to the Lingap Para sa Mahirap local social welfare program and the Department of Social Welfare and Development), she said.
Meanwhile, Carpio has ordered the cancellation of classes in all private schools in Davao City after President Duterte declared Sept. 21 as National Day of Protest.
“This is because of the security and safety concerns brought by the expected protest actions tomorrow and the inconvenience and delays it may cause to the travel of the students and the general public,” the mayor said.