BANGKOK (AP) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte angrily threatened to declare martial law after accusing communist rebels of killing two soldiers who were escorting food and cash deliveries during a coronavirus quarantine.
Duterte and his Cabinet also approved extending a lockdown in metropolitan Manila and several other cities and provinces to May 15, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Friday. A lockdown in the main northern Luzon region was set to expire April 30.
“I’m warning everybody and putting the armed forces and the police on notice that I might declare martial law. There will be no turning back,” Duterte said in a televised speech. “I have two more years. I will try to finish all of you,” he said, referring to the communist rebels.
Duterte renewed his accusations against the New People’s Army guerrillas, who he said have extorted money from big companies and stolen firearms of slain soldiers in an insurgency that has lasted more than half a century. The rebels have denied his accusations and said they are helping villagers cope with the pandemic.
Roque specified areas where the lockdown, which the government calls a “community quarantine,” can be eased to allow the reopening of some essential businesses. Officials have warned of a severe impact on the economy if the lockdown lasts for months and financial aid depletes government coffers.
The Philippines has reported more than 7,100 cases and 477 deaths from the virus. Many believe the actual toll is higher given limited testing.