COVID-19 martial law off the table, says Palace official

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 02 2020 12:30 PM | Updated as of Apr 02 2020 12:57 PM

A soldier stops a motorcycle rider to ask for identity as part of the security measure being enforced on various entry points to Metro Manila. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA- Martial law is excluded from the Philippine government's options to address the COVID-19 pandemic, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said Thursday as he emphasized the need to maintain public peace and order.

While military rule is off the table, Nograles said the government would not allow anyone to create trouble as it is "very important" for President Rodrigo Duterte to maintain the peace.

"Is martial law an option? Hindi natin pinaguusapan ang martial law," he said.

"Di papayag ang gobyernong may manggugulo at nagtatake advantage sa situation na ito," he added.

Nograles warned against creating trouble, saying COVID-19 is a public health concern.

"Let's not complicate things by making it a peace and order problem. It's already hard as it is," he added.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday accused leftist groups of stirring public sentiment against the government during the COVID-19 crisis, saying he wouldn't hesitate to order authorities to "shoot them dead."

The President made the remark hours after authorities dispersed a protest rally by a group of Quezon City residents along EDSA for violating the Luzon quarantine. The group said they were out of work and had not received food aid.

Police said the leftist group Kadamay riled up the protesters using false information.

Philippine National Police chief Gen. Archie Gamboa on Thursday assured the public that police officers would not heed the President's order and defended the remark simply as a "strong message."

"We see the strong message and I think all the PNP personnel understood it," he said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Philippines has confirmed a total of 2,311 cases of COVID-19, with 96 fatalities, and 50 recoveries.

The pandemic has prompted President Duterte to declare a state of public health emergency, state of calamity, and state of national emergency.