Media Got it Right: Duterte on Martial Law
PRESS SECRETARY Martin Andanar blamed the media for what he called “the height of journalistic irresponsibility” following media reports on the latest remarks of President Rodrigo Duterte on martial law.
Actually, the media got it all and the media got it right.
On January 14, Duterte addressed the Davao City Chamber of Commerce. As in his other speeches, he did not stick to the written script and rambled from one issue to another – corruption, federalism, the peace process and drugs. He then criticized those who are speculating about him prolonging himself in office through martial law. “So those who are thinking itong mga taga-Maynila about Martial Law, lengthening your stay, it’s bullshit.”
From there, he shifted to mentioning the drug menace in the country before returning to the topic of martial law.
“You know I have to protect the Filipino people. It’s my duty. And I tell you now, if I have to declare martial law, I will declare it. Not about invasion, insurrection, not about danger. I will declare martial law to preserve my nation, period,” Duterte said.
He continued, saying that no one would be able to stop him should he decide to declare martial law. “Wala akong pakialam diyan sa Supreme Court or — because the thing, the right to preserve one’s life and my nation, my country transcends everything else even the limitation. Kung gusto ko at it will deteriorate into something really very virulent, I will declare martial law if I wanted to. Walang makapigil sa akin.” (See: Official transcript of President Duterte’s January 14 speech)
When reports on Duterte’s pronouncement came out, Andanar scolded the media for “sow[ing] panic and confusion” to the public. He claimed that the press misreported on the issue by reporting that the president will declare martial law “if he wants to” or that “no one can stop the president from declaring martial law”— explaining that what the president really meant was that he would declare martial law only if the country deteriorated into an utter state of rebellion and lawlessness.
As media reports mostly captured the president’s word in direct quotes, the problem is not the media. In this case, the media are not the source of confusion. Actually, CMFR found 16 references/mentions in the transcribed text of the president’s speech. The speech reflects the paramount place martial law holds in the president’s thoughts. Media should report such a fixation.
Duterte had previously said that he is not keen on declaring martial law. Yet he had also, in at least four occasions, tinkered with the possibility of declaring martial law to “preserve” his country against drugs. If Duterte is indeed serious when he says that he will not declare martial law, then he might as well just stay off the topic to prevent confusion instead of having his men admonish the press for doing their job.