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Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra

Pandemic not ground for Martial law  

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Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra disagreed with the statement of presidential chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo that a coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) 'invasion' is a ground to declare martial law.

“In the context of martial law, 'invasion' refers to invasion of a country by foreign armed forces,” Guevarra said in a statement.

He added this is analogous to the other ground for declaring martial law such as rebellion, which is an armed uprising against the government by its own citizens.

Under the 1987 Constitution, a president can only declare martial law in case of invasion or rebellion when the public safety requires it.

“Both terms refer to armed actions by human beings, not by non-living things like viruses,” said Guevarra.

Panelo said Monday President Rodrigo Duterte can impose martial law due to the spread of the deadly coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the country.

He said the definition of invasion had evolved and should not be confined to the use of armed forces to occupy another country.

“It can mean the entry of a disease and the transfer from one area to another.  There is an actual invasion of the coronavirus disease which is [a] pandemic. It threatens, in fact, the entire country,” Panelo said in his commentary program aired on state-run PTV.

On April 23, Duterte said he might impose martial rule should the New People’s Army continue with their atrocities including attacks on police and military officers who are delivering aid to communities.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque immediately clarified then that the President was not using the pandemic to declare martial law. 

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