DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 24 May) – The security in the Davao Region has been tightened Wednesday after the declaration of martial law in Mindanao by President Rodrigo R. Duterte late Tuesday, shortly after the local terrorist Maute Group occupied downtown Marawi City.
In a press conference Wednesday, Chief Supt. Manuel Gaerlan, Police Regional Office (PRO) 11 regional director, said the imposition of martial law also suspends the “plain view doctrine.” This means, he said, that passengers can now be asked to get off their vehicles and submit themselves for inspection so law enforcers can check on any suspicious personalities and seize firearms and explosives even if those manning the checkpoints have not seen probable cause.
Under martial law, he said some civil rights are curtailed to some extent.
“This [plain view doctrine] is no longer applicable. This is martial law. The situation has changed, partly the civil rights of the citizens are temporarily suspended due to the call of the situation. We will need to inspect baggage, packages, bags, cargo boxes, if necessary, if there is indication that there are firearms, explosives and whatever,” Gaerlan said.
He told passengers: “Just cooperate and submit yourselves” for the thorough inspection.
Gaerlan added that the public can expect delayed travels by land, air, and sea going to and fro the Davao Region “to prevent the movement of the terrorists going to possibly Davao Region, so we are putting in place stricter checkpoints, thorough search and if we need to order or request the occupants of the vehicles to get out and have their vehicles inspected and belongings.”
He said they are waiting for written guidelines from Duterte on the implementation of martial law whether or not they will be deputized by the military to function as a supporting unit to their operations.
Gaerlan added the police authorities will still continue their ordinary functions “as a primary law enforcement unit of the country” to protect civil and criminal rights.
He told the public to “stay calm” as he assured human rights will be respected.
“There is a big difference between martial law during President (Ferdinand) Marcos and President Duterte,” Gaerlan said. “We have learned from our lesson. It was a very painful lesson. During that time, there was Philippine Constabulary. The stories about abuses, we have learned our lesson,” he added.
How vowed that as regional director, “I will make sure there will be no abuses.”
During the Marcos regime, he said the Anti-Subversion Act was passed to suppress the uprising from left-leaning organizations.
For as long as the militant groups will not commit crimes of rebellion, terrorism, and illegal possession of firearms and explosives, Gaerlan said they can openly declare their allegiance with the communists.
He added it defeats the purpose of declaring martial law if it will disadvantage the people.
“The purpose of martial law is to take care of the communities, not to harass and suppress the people,” Gaerlan stressed.
He said they will increase police visibility in busy areas of the city.
Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte said she has reduced to “hold and secure” from her earlier pronouncement of “lockdown” the security situation in the city.
The mayor said she is waiting for the guidelines to be released by President Duterte on the implementation of martial law.
In the meantime, she discouraged travellers from coming to Davao City.
She said authorities are particularly securing the city – hometown of the President – because this a good “riling point” for the terrorists who want to make noise.
In a statement Wednesday morning, Col. Edgard A. Arevalo, chief of the Armed Forces’ Public Affairs Office, said the siege in Marawi City perpetrated by the local terrorist Maute Group was a “propaganda to attract foreign terrorists’ support and recognition.” He maintained they are not members of the global terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
He claimed these reports are spurious, circulated by the “terrorists and their sympathizers” to “spread lies and disinformation.”
Arevalo denied that terrorists occupied and held hostage personnel of the Amai Pakpak Hospital, adding that Marawi City Hall was also not occupied as reported earlier.
He claimed that the situation in Marawi has stabilized and that government forces “are already in full control.”
Arevalo added the sporadic firefights were “harassment actions by terrorist sympathizers that were conducted as diversionary tactics to divide the attention of the reinforcing AFP personnel.” (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)