Panelo floats COVID-19 'invasion' as basis to declare martial law

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 4) — Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo floated Monday a novel — and likely controversial — legal theory that President Rodrigo Duterte can declare martial law on the basis of “invasion” of the novel coronavirus.

He said during his commentary show on state broadcaster People’s Television that the term “invasion” has changed throughout the years and can also mean “the entry of a disease and the transfer from one area to another.”

“There is an actual invasion of the coronavirus disease, which is pandemic. It threatens, in fact, the entire country, so may aktwal na invasion (there is an actual invasion),” Panelo said.

While saying that the definition of “invasion” evolved over time, Panelo conceded that the framers of the Constitution only considered it to mean the forced entry of foreign military forces into the country.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra also cited this definition of invasion, adding that it, along with rebellion, refers to “armed actions by human beings, not by non-living things like viruses.”

The Constitution provides that the president may only declare martial law in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier threatened to declare martial law due to the supposed lawlessness of communist rebels.