World

Duterte backtracks on martial law threat

Philippine President to consider extreme measures if drug issue gets 'virulent'

MANILA Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has said he would impose martial law if the drug problem became "very virulent", just a month after dismissing as "nonsense" any suggestion he might do so.

Mr Duterte, speaking to members of a chamber of commerce in the southern city of Davao late on Saturday, said he has sworn to protect the country against all threats, including drugs, which he said has affected about 4 million people.

He said: "If I wanted to, and it will deteriorate into something really very virulent, I will declare martial law.

"No one can stop me," he said, referring to the Supreme Court and Congress.

"My country transcends everything else, even the limitations."

The Philippines endured a decade of martial law from the early 1970s and memories of campaigns to restore democracy and protect human rights are fresh in the minds of many people, Reuters reported.

Last month, Mr Duterte appeared to rule out any possibility he might declare martial law. "That's nonsense. We had martial law before, what happened? Did it improve our lives now? Not at all," he said.

Under the Constitution, the President would need to submit a report to Congress within 48 hours after his declaration of martial law. Congress can vote to revoke the declaration, Philippines website inquirer.net reported.

If I wanted to, and it will deteriorate into something really very virulent, I will declare martial law. No one can stop me. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte

Mr Duterte earlier said he wanted the declaration of martial law to be the prerogative of the chief executive without the approval of Congress and the Supreme Court.

The President slammed his critics, who claimed that he wanted to declare martial law to extend his term.

"Those in Manila thinking about martial law, lengthening your stay... b******t," he said.

A new Constitution drawn up in 1987 in an effort to avoid another dictatorship specified a single six-year presidential term, AFP reported.

It also said the president could impose martial rule for just 60 days and only to stop an invasion or a rebellion.

But Mr Duterte warned he could ignore the 60-day limit.

He said: "The 60-day (limit) will be gone. And I'd tell you now, if I have to declare martial law, I will declare it - not about invasion, insurrection, not about danger. I will declare martial law to preserve my nation - period."

Mr Duterte has waged a brutal war on drugs since he took office last year. Since July, more than 6,000 people have been killed in the anti-drug campaign, while more than one million drug peddlers and users have been dealt with under law. - WIRE SERVICES

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