President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday night denied that his order to deploy more troops to parts of the Visayas and the Bicol region was a prelude to a declaration of nationwide martial law.

“No. I am not going to declare martial law,” he told reporters in Bohol.

Duterte made the remark after critics, including legislators belonging to the Makabayan bloc, said Malacañang was taking another step towards imposing a nationwide martial rule by issuing Memorandum Order 32 that was issued last week.

Signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, MO 32 directed the deployment of additional soldiers and policemen to Samar, Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental and the Bicol region to suppress “lawless violence and acts of terror” and “prevent such violence from spreading and escalating elsewhere in the country.”

The memorandum reinforced the guidelines under the state of national emergency, which Duterte declared in September 2016 following the deadly Davao City bombing.

In nixing the martial law option, Duterte said there were enough powers under the presidency to quell lawless violence.

 

“There’s enough powers of the presidency na magamit ko, well kung talagang it’s widespread violence, then maybe,” he said.

“But I do not need really violence in every corner of the Philippines to say that we are in danger but as the one in the office there working for the people I will do what is necessary to preserve this nation and to protect the people.”

The President said he ordered the troop deployment in response to “many” armed encounters and deadly attacks on soldiers and policemen by lawless groups.

“I’m surprised why you [media] are so interested about deployment when I’m supposed to take care of the security of the country,” Duterte said.

No additional places would be added to the list of areas with increased presence of troops at the moment, Duterte said, even as he vowed to send a “division size” force in southern Philippines where recent clashes with the Abu Sayyaf Group claimed the lives of some soldiers.

Martial law is currently in effect in the entire Mindanao and is set to expire next month.

Duterte has yet to issue a statement whether he will ask Congress for another extension of the martial rule, which he imposed after ISIS-inspired Maute rebels laid siege to Marawi City in May last year. BAP, GMA News