CEBU, Philippines — If only to put an end to the killings that have gripped Negros in anxiety, the Malacañang said yesterday that President Rodrigo Duterte is looking at declaring possible martial law “soon” in the violence-stricken island.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo relayed the information to the media amid the spate of killings in the province, the latest having targeted policemen, teachers, a lawyer, and civilians on separate occasions.
Geographically, Negros Oriental is the closest province to Cebu, with their nearest points – Santander in Cebu and Tampi in Negros – reachable by boat in just less than 30 minutes.
As of July 25, 2019, the total number of victims of alleged extra-judicial killings on Negros Island since Duterte came to power in 2016 was at 78, according to a social media campaign called #DefendNegros.
“It appears to be soon. He (Duterte) mentioned it in his speech of the anniversary of NICA (National Intelligence Coordinating Agency),” Panelo said when asked how close the President is in issuing a declaration.
He added that Duterte can call the Armed Forces to quell lawless violence or declare martial law.
“Yes, because the Constitution says you can declare martial law in the entire country or parts thereof,” he said. “Duterte can declare martial law anew this time in Negros, even if the state of emergency remains enforced nationwide.”
Panelo said Duterte is constrained to intervene in the province because of the widespread unrest, which is also reportedly being taken advantage by the communist New People’s Army.
“Unrest there has become widespread and it is being used by the communist rebels to use it as an excuse. And, in fact, he has even made the two provinces a quasi-state, meaning to say that the land claimants there are involved in armed hostilities,” Panelo said.
Panelo added that the national government has to intervene even if the Philippine National Police has deployed about 300 Special Action Force commandos.
“And it is the communist rebels that arbitrarily choose who will occupy or own the land. Grabe na iyong patayan doon, we have a village, a barangay captain, a municipal mayor, four policemen and a lawyer (killed),” he said.
“The President doesn’t want this to happen. He wants it stopped, and the only way to do that is to use his emergency powers,” he added.
Under the Constitution, the President may use emergency powers, including martial law, to address lawless violence and in the name of public safety. Martial law and the suspension of habeas corpus are currently hoisted in Mindanao due to terrorism and rebellion that started in Marawi on May 23, 2017.
3 Armed ‘Rebels’ fall in Cebu
Less than 24 hours after Panelo hinted on the possible martial rule, three armed suspected NPA members who travelled by boat from Negros were arrested yesterday afternoon in the town of Badian, southern Cebu
Police identified the three as Danny Harold Tancinco, Ronnie Herebias, and Marlon Basalo but authorities have yet to verify if these are their real names.
Their arrest was hatched following a report from the Barangay Intelligence Network of Ayungon town, Negros Oriental that said three alleged rebels were seen boarding a boat enroute to Cebu.
Upon receiving the information, authorities prepositioned themselves at the Lambug Beach in Badian, where the boat described by the tipsters docked at 1 p.m.
Police observed that the boat sped off after the three got off with their backpacks.
After confirming that the three were armed, the police then rushed to the scene and arrested them.
They yielded a .38 caliber, a .45 caliber with magazine, another .38 revolver with five live ammos, a revolver with four ammos, two grenades, cash amounting to P17,170, alleged subversive documents including tactical maps, and a wrist watch.
Police Regional Office-7 Director Brigadier General Debold Sinas said the three were suspected to be members of NPA and could be behind the killings of the four policemen in Ayungon on July 24.
Sinas said two of the three arrested claimed to be members of the communist group.
“Miikyas didto kay murag init didto. Miagi diri, migamit og private boat (They fled Negros because it is currently a hotspot now. They used a private boat to get to Cebu),” Sinas said.
The suspects, who are now detained at the Moalboal Police Station, allegedly admitted to the police that they escaped Ayungon amid the intensified police and military patrol there.
On Tuesday night, Panelo informed the public that President Duterte has raised from P3 million to P5 million the reward money for the capture, dead or alive, of the killers of the four Negros policemen.
The Palace is also giving P100,000 additional monetary consideration for the arrest of each of the accomplices in the killing.
“The President has also issued a stern warning that the members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Negros have gone overboard and that their killings have become brazen and unbridled where men in uniform, as well as civilians are murdered with impunity,” Panelo said. — JMD Philippine Star News Service (FREEMAN)