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Coronavirus invasion? Martial law only for actions by humans, not viruses: DOJ chief

MANILA - Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Monday said martial law can only be declared due to armed actions by human beings, and not by viruses.

"In the context of martial law, 'invasion' refers to invasion of a country by foreign armed forces. This is analogous to the other ground for declaring martial law, i.e., rebellion, which is an armed uprising against the government by its own citizens. Both terms refer to armed actions by human beings, not by non-living things like viruses," he said in a statement.

Guevarra was reacting to Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo's claim that the global coronavirus pandemic can be considered an "invasion", and can serve as basis for President Rodrigo Duterte to employ extraordinary measures such as martial law.

Panelo said the coronavirus pandemic threatens the whole country, claiming that there is an "actual invasion" happening.

So far, the Philippines has responded to the coronavirus pandemic with lockdowns, enhanced testing, and physical distancing measures.

As of Monday, the Philippines has a confirmed 9,485 cases of COVID-19. This includes 623 deaths, and 1,315 recoveries.

- with a report from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News