By Ayee Macaraig, AFP
MANILA — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte warned Thursday he may impose martial law and suspend elections for tens of thousands of local posts, fueling concerns about democracy under his rule. Duterte said he was considering both measures as part of his controversial campaign to eradicate illegal drugs in society, and that martial law would solve a range of other security threats. “If I declare martial law, I will finish all the problems, not just drugs,” Duterte told reporters in a predawn briefing after returning from neighboring Thailand, which is under military rule. Duterte said that, as part of martial law, he may create military courts to hear cases against terrorists. “I will allow the military to try you and put you to death by hanging,” he said, referring to Islamic militants in the south of the country. Since easily winning presidential elections last year and taking office nine months ago, Duterte has given conflicting statements on whether he intended to impose military rule. The issue is highly sensitive in the Philippines, which is still trying to build a strong democracy three decades after a famous “People Power” revolution ended Ferdinand Marcos’s dictatorship. Duterte has previously warned he would be prepared to defy constitutional safeguards and restrictions on martial law, although he and his aides have later sought to downplay those threats. On Thursday, he gave an emphatic case for martial law, saying it would stop the Philippines from “exploding.” “I will be harsh,” Duterte said as he described his approach to military rule.
Duterte also said he was planning to appoint leaders of more than 42,000 districts, known as barangays, across the nation instead of having them elected in polls that were scheduled for October.