World

Duterte may declare martial law nationwide: Defence chief

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte may declare nationwide martial law next week if threatened massive protests against his rule turn violent or disruptive, his defence chief said yesterday.

"He said, if the left will try to have a massive protest, start fires on the streets, they will disrupt the country, then I might (declare martial law)," Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said, recounting a conversation with Mr Duterte.

Mr Lorenzana emphasised that he thought the chances of Mr Duterte declaring martial law were remote because he doubted the scheduled protests next Thursday would be as big as the organisers said.

He said: "But the president is indeed very concerned because it might get out of hand. So he said, 'I might declare martial law'."

A coalition of groups naming themselves the "Movement Against Tyranny" had announced it was planning protests on Sept 21, the 45-year anniversary of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos imposing his military rule.

It said the protests, to be held at a park in Manila, would voice opposition against Mr Duterte's war on drugs that has claimed thousands of lives, as well as the president's attacks on democratic institutions.

The coalition also voiced outrage at Mr Duterte's public support for Mr Marcos, who was overthrown in the "People Power" revolution in 1986 and died in US exile three years later.

Mr Duterte won last year's presidential elections on a law-and-order platform in which he promised to eradicate illegal drugs by killing up to 100,000 traffickers and addicts.

Police have reported killing more than 3,800 people in anti-drug operations since he took office 15 months ago, while thousands of others have been murdered in unexplained circumstances.

Mr Duterte has threatened to impose martial law across the country, but neither he nor his aides have previously given a specific timeframe or event that would trigger it.

He imposed martial law across the southern third of the Philippines in May after Islamic State group supporters occupied a major Islamic city there, leading to a conflict that has claimed more than 800 lives. - AFP

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