Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte


President defends declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao; Congress set to convene to ratify or revoke declaration


MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte yesterday said he will not hesitate to expand the coverage of Martial Law in Mindanao to the entire Philippines if local terrorists supportive of the Middle-East based terror group Islamic State have taken a foothold in Luzon and the Visayas and are plotting to carry out terroristic acts in the two regions.

“If I think the ISIS has taken foothold also in Luzon and terrorism is not really far behind, I might declare Martial Law throughout the country to protect the people,” Duterte said upon arriving from Moscow.

He also said the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is already suspended in Mindanao under Martial Law and it may also be done in the Visayas.

Duterte cut short his four-day visit in Russia after members of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups attacked the city of Marawi in the central Mindanao province of Lanao del Sur. The terrorists raided a hospital and burned down a school and a church. They also set free inmates of the city jail and set afire to the penitentiary.

Hundreds of residents of Marawi have fled the city following the siege.

Troops clashed with the terrorists leaving at least 20 dead, including five soldiers and two policemen, and more than 30 others wounded from both the government and rebel sides.

GMA Channel 7 reported that seven civilians were shot dead by the terrorists as the television station showed photos of the bodies of the victims who were tied up.

The rebels also took hostage a Catholic priest identified as Fr. Teresito “Chito” Suganob, a parish priest in Marawi City, and several church workers. Marawi City Bishop Edwin dela Peña said he rushed back to his diocese on Tuesday afternoon after being informed by Suganob about what was happening in Marawi.

Dela Peña received a call hours later and instead of his secretary’s voice, a man who claimed to be an ISIS member and said that they have taken hostage of Suganob and other church workers.

By that time, the Our Lady Help of Christians cathedral, the Dansalan College and the city jail had been set afire by the Maute and Abu Sayyaf terrorists led by Abu leader Isnilon Hapilon.

Dela Peña said he was able to talk to Suganob and that the “ISIS member” said they want to leave Marawi. The “ISIS member” demanded a unilateral ceasefire from the military or they would kill Suganod and the church workers if their demand is not granted.

The crisis in Marawi had prompted Duterte to place Mindanao under Martial Law for 60 days and the President defended his move saying, “We are in a state of emergency. I have a serious problem in Mindanao and the ISIS has their footprints everywhere. And there are many, many foreigners and Caucasian-looking (in Mindanao).”

Prior to leaving Moscow, Duterte said in a Facebook Live interview with Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson of the Presidential Commnications Operations Office that his administration’s Martial Law will be harsh.

Upon arrival from Russia, Duterte said he had to protect the people and country as he warned those who will defy the government that they will be killed. He also allowed licensed gunowners in Mindanao to shoot down terrorists.

“If things go out of hand, actually there is severe fighting, I will allow the Mindanaoans – Moros and Christians alike – if you are in the possession of a gun licensed by government and in order to give you security and protect your family, you can bring it out,” he said.

“Just show your ID or your license, specially your license. I said ‘If there are killings even of civilians’, I will allow the civilians to carry their guns outside of their residence. But be sure that it is licensed in your name. And do not falsify anything because you’ll also be detained and investigated,” he also said.

Philippine lawmakers were told to stay put in Manila yesterday for a review of President Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao, as provided by the 1987 Constitution.

Duterte has decided to send a written report to the two legislative houses of Congress about the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao. The Constitution states that the President is required to report to Congress in person or in writing within 48 hours of the declaration of Martial Law.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said the Senate and House of Representatives would jointly convene to decide whether to ratify or revoke Mr. Duterte’s proclamation placing all of Mindanao under martial law as the Constitution mandates.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, meanwhile, ordered all judges in Mindanao to keep their courts open and make themselves available “as far as their local circumstances may allow.”


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