SENATE President Vicente Sotto III on Monday said he does not think President Rodrigo R. Duterte would declare martial law because of the recent killings of local officials.
“I don’t think so. The atmosphere doesn’t call for it,” he said in an ambush interview with reporters at the sidelines of the bicameral conference committee hearing on the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
The Senate leader also implied that the killings may be connected to local politics, pointing out that intense political rivalries have always existed even during past administrations.
“Hindi naman bago ang maraming away sa local, matagal na ‘yan (The bickerings by local executives are no longer new, it’s long been there). Even during and after martial law, talagang mainit ang local politics sa atin (our local politics is really intense),” Sotto said.
On Monday last week, Mayor Antonio Halili of Tanauan City, Batangas was shot dead during the city hall’s flag-raising ceremony.
A day later, General Tinio, Nueva Ecija Mayor Ferdinand Bote was shot dead in an ambush in Cabanatuan City.
Last Saturday, Trece Martires, Cavite City Vice Mayor Alex Lubigan and Kapatagan, Lanao del Sur municipal councilor Nassif Palawan Bansil were shot dead during separate incidents.
While the Philippine National Police (PNP) assured that thorough investigations are underway to solve the killings, authorities are eyeing politics as the motive behind the series of slays, especially in the case of Lubigan.
Several news reports said Lubigan was killed a day after announcing his intention to run for mayor in the upcoming May 2019 elections.
Some opposition lawmakers expressed apprehensions that the killings could be orchestrated to create an “atmosphere of lawlessness to justify a strongman rule.”
But Senator Aquilino Pimentel III fended off the speculations, stressing that President Duterte does not condone the killings, noting that the Chief Executive is not the kind who will use such situations as a pretext to impose nationwide martial law.
“No way that lives will be sacrificed just so the President can impose martial law nationwide. Hindi po tayo ganyan at hindi rin ganyan ang presidente po natin (We are not like that, neither is our president),” the former Senate President and Duterte’s party-mate said.