Police won’t endorse martial law in Negros

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Philippine National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard M. Banac — PHILSTAR/BOY SANTOS

PHILIPPINE POLICE won’t seek martial rule in Negros Oriental despite a series of killings by suspected communist rebels, with peace and order still under control, according to its spokesman.

But local government officials might have a different view, Philippine National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard M. Banac told reporters yesterday.

“The situation in Negros Oriental is getting back to normal but local chiefs might assess it differently,” he said in Filipino.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte has threatened to put the province under martial rule to “quell lawless violence” there after four policemen were killed by suspected communist rebels last month, his spokesman said last month.

The president will use his emergency powers to crush all forms of threats aimed to destroy the government, presidential spokesman Salvador S. Panelo told reporters earlier. Mr. Duterte would not hesitate to declare martial law on the island if the military and local government officials recommend it, he added.

Mr. Duterte thinks members of the New People’s Army — the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines — “have gone overboard,” Mr. Panelo said. His spokesman said law enforcers and civilians were being murdered with impunity.

Four intelligence cops were killed after they were ambushed by armed men in the village of Mabato in Ayungon town on July 18.

On July 13, an alleged squad leader of a mass supporter of the New People’s Army died after Army troops clashed with suspected communist rebels at the boundary of Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental.

At least 20 people have died in the province from July 18 to 27, with police blaming most deaths on the New People’s Army, according to the Philippine Star.

The police chief of Negros Oriental was relieved after the spate of killings, Mr. Banac said last week.

Police said Mr. Duterte would still have to listen to what local government officials have to say about lawlessness in the province.

Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana earlier said the province need not be placed under martial rule until security officials and local governments have fully assessed the situation.

Mr. Banac said two of the suspects in the killing of the four cops had been arrested at the weekend for illegal possession of explosives and firearms.

He said fighting with communist rebels might still erupt in the coming days. “We will continue to study the situation,” he added. — Vince Angelo C. Ferreras