Declaring martial law nationwide 'very remote' - defense chief

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 15) — President Rodrigo Duterte does not mince words when he threatens to expand martial law nationwide, but Mindanao martial law administrator and Defense Chief Delfin Lorenzana doubts it will happen.

During a Palace briefing Friday, Lorenzana said Duterte will only declare a nationwide martial law if there are massive protests across the country.

Even with leftists demonstrations expected on the September 21, the martial law anniversary, he doubts they will be big enough to warrant an expansion of martial law.

"Sinabi na rin ni Presidente 'yan eh. Sabi niya, 'Kung Left will try to have a massive protest, magsunog sila sa kalsada, they will disrupt the country, then I might (declare martial law)....' Sa aking pananaw naman, estimate ko very remote naman mangyari," he said during a Palace briefing.

[Translation:The President has already said that (I might declare martial law), if the Left will try to have a masive protest, they burn the streets, they will disrupt the country, then I might....' In my opinion, in my estimate, that is very remote.]

He added the demonstrations will unlikely cause disruption. Duterte, however, has a message to protesters.

"Do not commit the mistake of staging a rebellion. 'Yung sabihin mo na there's a fighting on the streets. I will not hesitate to impose martial law all throughout the country and order the arrest of everybody," he said during a media interview in Cagayan De Oro on September 9.

Militant groups respond to nationwide martial law talks

Militant groups said Duterte is using them to justify the looming declaration of nationwide martial law.

"He is still using us, 'no? Sa kanyang pag-justify....Ang mamayanan ay mag-a-assert ng ating right at hindi natin papayagan that a creeping dictatorship na ipino-propose ni President Duterte sa atin ay manaig," said Amira Lidasan of Suara Bangsamoro.

[Translation:He's still using us, right? In his justification. The citizens should assert their rights and we will not allow the creeping dictatorship President Duterte to prevail.]

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), meanwhile, said their protests are not violent. The President's statement only shows he is preparing the Philippines for a countrywide military rule.

"It seems he is setting the stage, for nationwide martial law because as far as we know, there have been no armed protest actions in Metro Manila....Violent protests to declare martial law? That is something used before by Marcos himself," BAYAN Secretary General Renato Reyes said.

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate also said the threat is a "psywar tactic," designed to discourage protesters from joining rallies.

Possible class, work suspension

Lorenzana said the President may move to suspend work in government offices and suspend classes on the 21st if only to protect people from any possible violence.

Related: Duterte mulls class, gov't work suspension in Metro Manila on September 21

Lorenzana said the country is still under a state of emergency on account of lawless violence.

In 2016, this was enforced in response to the Davao night market bombing on September 2.

Lorenzana said this may be invoked by security officials to arrest violent demonstrators on September 21.

"We can also put up checkpoints. We can establish curfews. Mas matindi ng kaunti. But almost the same 'yan eh. We can hold people, arrest people, and hold them for 36 hours. 'Yun kasing martial law 72 hours then we have to let them go if we cannot find any culpable violation of law," he said.

The entire region of Mindanao has been under martial law since May 23 due to the ongoing war in Marawi City between government troops and ISIS-linked local terror group Maute.