Senators: Local killings do not call for martial law

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Senate President Tito Sotto says killings in the local government are nothing new.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 10) — Amid the recent killings of local government officials, senators believe the current atmosphere in the country does not call for the imposition of martial law.

Senate President Tito Sotto believes local political rivalries play a factor in these killings.

"Hindi naman bago ang maraming away sa local e, matagal na 'yan. Even during and after martial law talagang mainit ang local politics sa atin," Sotto said Thursday.

[Translation: Local rivalries are nothing new.  Even during and after martial law, local politics have long been taking the heat.]

Sotto said investigators should take the killings at face value.

"Ang hirap naman lahat na lang pag may nangyari doon tayo nakaturo sa lider (ng bansa)," he said.

[Translation: It's hard if we pin the blame on the country's leader every time something happens.]

Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III said the declaration is "impossible," adding that President Rodrigo Duterte would not sacrifice Filipino's live just to impose military rule.

"Hindi tayo ganyan at hindi ganyan ang presidente natin. Huwag tayo maniwala sa ganyang analysis. Masyadong politically intriguing ang analysis na 'yan," Pimentel said.

[Translation: We're not like that and neither is our President. Let's not believe these politically intriguing analyses.]

But he did not shrug off the possibility of the President doing so.

"Nagbabago ang circumstances ng bansa [Circumstances in the country change:]," Pimentel explained.

But on the killings of local officials, Pimentel believes it is a police matter since these did not happen only during Duterte's term.

"This is a police matter. And there are too many guns available, licensed and unlicensed. Siguro magandang programa ng pulis [A good police program] is crackdown on unlicensed firearms," he said.

On Monday, Philippine National Police Chief Dir. Oscar Albayalde clarified that the killings will not justify a declaration of martial law in the entire nation.

This, after opposition senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan expressed doubt if the recent spate of killings is a deliberate attempt to create lawlessness "to justify a strongman rule".

"Syempre may agam-agam tayo. Bakit sunod-sunod ang pagpatay ng mga opisyal ng pamahalaan sa local? Bakit nagkaroon ng bombahan sa Cebu noong bodega ni Mr. Peter Lim? Ito ba ay sinasadya?" Pangilinan said.

[Translation: We have second thoughts. Why the subsequent killings of local government officials? Why the bombing of Mr. Peter Lim's storehouse in Cebu? Is this orchestrated?]

Pangilinan said that while he did not have any clear answers to whose behind the killings, Albayalde should get to the bottom of them.

"We have to get him to task to get to the bottom of this. Tignan natin ano magiging kilos niya dito dahil sunud-sunod ang patayan na ito, dapat sunud-sunod din ang resulta sa likod ng patayan," he said.

[Translation: We have to get him to task to get to the bottom of this. We'll observe how he acts. If the killings happen subsequently, the results of the investigation must come in just as fast.]

Senator Bam Aquino also said the President should aid in fast-tracking the probe into the killing of local officials.

"Nananawagan kami kay Pangulong Duterte na itigil na ang palagiang pagbabanta ng kamatayan at huwag gawing biro ang tahasang pagpaslang," he said.

[Translation:We call on President Duterte to stop making threats of killings and making a joke out of them.]

On July 2, Tanauan City, Batangas Mayor Antonio Halili was killed in front of the city hall. This was followed by the shooting of Gen. Tinio, Nueva Ecija Mayor Ferdinand Bote  on July 3.

Three other locally elected officials were killed on July 7:  Vice Mayor Alex Lubigan of Trece Martires City, Cavite; Michael Magallanes, third councilor of Brgy. Sta. Catalina, Zamboanga City; and Nassif Palawan Bansil, municipal councilor of Kapatagan, Lanao del Sur.

CNN Philippines' Correspondent Joyce Ilas and Digital Producer Chad de Guzman contributed to this report.