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Duterte threatens martial law, military courts and suspension of elections

The president says appointing barangay officials is the only way to prevent drug lords taking control of the country

President Duterte warned today (Thursday, March 23) that he may impose martial law and suspend elections for tens of thousands of barangay (village) officials.

The president said both measures were being considered as part of his war on drugs, and added that martial law would also solve other threats to the country.

“If I declare martial law, I will finish all the problems, not just drugs,” he said after returning from an official visit to Thailand, which is currently under military rule.

“I will allow the military to try you and put you to death by hanging,” he said, referring to Abu Sayyaf and other Islamic militants.

Since taking office nine months ago, the president has given numerous conflicting statements on whether he planned to impose military rule. (See previous reports here, here, here, here and here)

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The president also announced that he was planning to personally appoint leaders of more than 42,000 barangays instead of having them elected in polls scheduled for October. The elections, usually held every three years, were originally planned for last year.

“We are looking for a way to just appoint the barangay captains,” he said, with a claim that it was too easy for drug lords to buy local elections.

“Narco-politics has entered the mainstream of Philippine politics,” he added.

Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno backed the plan. “The reason the President wants the barangay elections postponed is that he does not want those financed by drug lords to win.

“The barangay officials’ terms have already ended so their posts can be declared vacant. Under the President’s plan, all barangay posts will be declared vacant in October and persons not involved in drugs will be appointed in their place.”

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House Representative Gary Alejano, who has submitted a complaint to have the president impeached, said the plan to appoint the barangay officials was unconstitutional. “We should allow the people to vote. I don’t think it will be healthy if we continue to postpone the barangay elections,” he added.