MANILA - Declaration of Martial Law or providing President Rodrigo Duterte with emergency powers are not needed to solve the multiple crises the country is currently facing, Vice President Leni Robredo said Thursday.
During a Rotary Club of Manila meeting, Robredo was asked how she will respond if Duterte considers declaring Martial Law due to the COVID-19 crisis, the probe of the International Criminal Court prosecutor's office into the drug war, and the worsening poverty in the country, among other dilemmas.
"I don’t think there’s any need for Martial Law. If there is… if there is a need to declare anything, it’s really health and education crisis. There is no need for Martial Law to reign because we have, you know, we have enough laws that we can use to help us get through this crisis," the Vice President said.
Robredo took a swipe at the Duterte administration, which has been criticized for being fraught with incompetence even though it implemented one of the longest and most aggressive lockdowns in the world since the coronavirus pandemic began.
"If only government was more efficient, if only government was, you know, was more accountable—I have been pushing for government to declare an education crisis since last year," she said.
Robredo, who is running for president in 2022, earlier emphasized the Philippines needs to declare an "education crisis" due to its bad standing on literacy among countries.
"You know, we have been faring very, very badly in many of the international surveys as far as education is concerned. That’s one thing that needs extraordinary means. The health crisis is here already but it’s something that can be solved by good governance," she said.
"There are a lot of things that we can do now which does not necessitate emergency powers."
The Philippines earlier fell to the bottom of the latest Nikkei Asia COVID recovery and Bloomberg’s COVID resilience rankings.
According to the Nikkei Asia's COVID-19 Recovery Index, the country still has one of the lowest vaccination rates since only 30% of its population have been fully inoculated against the coronavirus as of Sept. 30.
Bloomberg also said the Philippines scored low on all four of its metrics related to reopening, vaccine coverage, and had implemented one of the most stringent lockdowns in the world, which caused the country to suffer a deep recession.
But the Department of Health and the National Task Force against COVID-19 disputed the rankings, questioning their methodologies and calling the assessment “skewed”.
Robredo stressed that even though the Philippines is in the midst of multifaceted crises, the country has a legal structure to cope with them, like the Bayanihan laws, which mandate officials to provide emergency aid to the public, and realign the budget to sectors that need it.
"We have enough law to pull through this economic crisis," she said.
Last year, Congress granted Duterte special powers to Duterte to address the growing crisis caused by the coronavirus disease under the “Bayanihan To Heal As One Act.”
Even with emergency powers, the government has been criticized for its supposed lack of sense of urgency and attention to details in proper pandemic response, and slow rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.
The country's total COVID-19 cases climbed to 2,698,232 on Thursday, of which 84,850 or 3.1 percent are active, the DOH said in its latest bulletin.
Over 40,221 have died while more than 2.5 million have recovered from the disease in the Philippines.
The government aims to vaccinate some 77 million people to achieve herd immunity and safely reopen the economy.
As of Oct. 11, more than 23.3 million individuals have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to government data