DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 09 March) — “Either tulungan ninyo ako or I will declare martial law tomorrow for Mindanao,” President Rodrigo Duterte warned Thursday night as he exhorted governors and mayors in 12 of Mindanao’s 27 provinces to use their powers to prevent violence “from spinning out of control.”
“Yan ang problema ko ngayon. Tulungan ninyo ako” (That’s my problem now. Help me), Duterte said, adding that if he declares martial law, “then I have to authorize the military just to arrest and detain you for… And it would not be good for our people and they would go into a trauma. Because how long would it take? I don’t know. It could be 20 days, it could last for one year.”
Under the 1987 Constitution, the President may suspend the writ of the privilege of habeas corpus or place the country or nay part thereof under martial law “in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it,” and only for a period “not exceeding 60 days” unless extended by Congress.
Duterte’s warning came even as the entire country has been under a “state of national emergency” in the last six months, allowing him to call on the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police “to undertake such measures as may be permitted by the Constitution and existing laws to suppress any and all forms of lawless violence in Mindanao and to prevent such lawless violence from spreading and escalating elsewhere in the Philippines.”
The President issued Proclamation 55 on September 4, 2016, placing the entire country under a “State of National Emergency on account of lawless violence in Mindanao.” The Proclamation was signed two days after the bombing at the Roxas night market in Davao City that left 15 persons dead and 69 others injured.
Duterte told some 240 governors, city and municipal mayors atteding the “Meeting with the Local Chief Executives in Mindanao” at the SMX Convention Center here that he is seeking help due to the enormity of the insurgency, terrorism, and drug menace in Mindanao.
“Ako nakikiusap sa inyo because I said I do not want the trouble in Mindanao to spin out of control. Because then as President, I will be forced, I will be compelled to exercise extraordinary powers,” he said.
“Just shooting the breeze”
After his 58-minute speech, Duterte spoke briefly with reporters and when asked for a timeframe in declaring martial law, he replied, “I was just shooting the breeze with them. Sabi ko ‘let me not do it. You have to help me.’ I do not want to do it because it is not good kasi pag mag-martial law na, ang supreme authority will be the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines), ako, pati yung police.”
He said the compelling reason that would make him declare martial law would be “violence beyond the control of day to day operations of government.”
“Kung di ma-control ng mga local executives and then mahirapan tayo mag control because of the so many restrictions under normal circumstances, sabi ko, I will be compelled to declare martial law. When they start to bomb schools, that’s unacceptable to me. When the children are already involved or into the vortex of violence that is (unacceptable).”
A Grade 7 student was killed and three others were injured when a bomb (one report said unexploded ordnance, another said grenade) exploded on February 22 inside the Comprehensive National High School campus in Lakewood, Zamboanga de Sur.
Duterte warned local chief executives he would strip them of their authority over the local police if they protect persons involved in illegal drugs.
“Huwag ninyong protektahan ang mga durugista, walang mangyari sa inyo niyan. Mag-away lang tayo. I will deprive you of the police. Kukunin ko ‘yung supervision at authority ninyo over the police and I will just ask the military to go in and impose order.. with orders to shoot anybody who defies the law with violence. That hanggang diyan, barilin mo, patayin mo kung sino ‘yung lumaban using violence against government. That would include you, ibig sabihin kasali tayo dito lahat,” he said.
The President said he does not want to declare martial law because he does not want to ruin the legitimate government structure. He said martial law will make the military and police “higher than you already in terms of authority at lahat” (and all), adding he does not want that to happen. In Filipino, he said, “I do not want to do that so help me. Use the police.”
He assured him of his protection should they be blamed for violations of human rights while doing their duties.
He said he would tell the Ombudsman “I have specifically ordered the mayors and the governors to use necessary force, necessary, and to kill if demanded under the circumstances.”
The governors and mayors who attended came from 12 provinces in three regions — Region 9 (Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay) and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, Tawi-tawi) and portions of Region 10 (Lanao del Norte), Region 12 (North Cotabato, South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat). (Carolyn O. Arguillas and Antonio Colina IV / MindaNews)