Duterte declares martial law in all of Mindanao’s 27 provinces and 33 cities

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 23 May) — President Rodrigo Duterte has declared martial law  in all of Mindanao’s 27 provinces and 33 cities effective 10 p.m. Tuesday (in the Philippines) following clashes between government forces and the terrorist Maute Group in downtown Marawi City that left two soldiers and a police officer dead, and 12 others injured.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella announced in a press conference in Moscow that the President, the first Mindanawon to lead the nation, declared martial law for a period of 60 days, citing rebellion as the reason.

“Details will be forthcoming,” Abella added.

Marawi City jail on fire. 23 May 2017. Photo courtesy of CMYP Online News

Article VII, Section  18 of the 1987 Constitution provides that in case of invasion or rebellion, “when the public safety requires it,” the President may, “for a period not exceeding sixty days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law.”

In view of the Marawi crisis, Duterte is cutting short his official visit in Russia, according to  Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, who is staying behind to sign agreements there.

Met with gunfire

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said two Army soldiers and a police officer were killed, 12 others were injured when the law enforcers were met with gunfire by the Maute group.

He said the terrorists occupied several buildings — the Amai Pakpak hospital, City Hall, City Jail and part of the Mindanao State University compound and burned some of them, including the St. Mary’s Church, City Jail, Ninoy Aquino School and the Dansalan College. Several houses near these institutions were also burned, he added.

Members of the Maute Group take control of various areas in Marawi City. Photo courtesy of CHICO DIMARO USMAN

Lorenzana said a joint team from the Army and Police “were trying to serve a warrant of arrest” at 2 p.m. on Isnilon Hapilon, an Abu Sayyaf leader who was reported to have allied with the Maute Group and is now referred to as Southeast Asian leader of the ISIS.

Hapilon was reported to have died a few months ago during a military strike on the Maute Group in Butig, Lanao del Sur.

Lorenzana said that the Maute group “still occupies also the main street of Marawi City, Quezon St., and two bridges leading to the city.”  The city also suffered a blackout.

Reinforcement troops have been sent to the city from neighboring areas and by Wednesday morning, more troops will be deployed from Zamboanga and Manila.

48 hours

Cayetano said he had spoken with his Russian counterpart “and they understand” why the President was cutting short his visit.

“The President will not be staying until 24th or 25th,” Cayetano said. Duterte was supposed to return home on the 26th.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte inspects the Russian Guards of Honor before singing the Philippine National Anthem upon his arrival at Vnukovo-2 Airport in Moscow for his official visit to the Russian Federation on May 23, 2017. Joining the President is Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Vladimirovich Morgulov. PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

The President has to be home soon because the Constitution mandates that within 48 hours from proclaiming martial law or suspending the writ of habeas corpus, “the President shall submit a report in person or in writing to the Congress” and that Congress, voting jointly, “by a vote of at least a majority of all its Members in regular or special session, may revoke such proclamation or suspension, which revocation shall not be set aside by the President.”

Abella said the President declared martial law as of 10 p.m. May 23.  The 48-hour period ends at 10 p.m. on May 25.

Why all of Mindanao?

Asked why the martial law declaration was for all of Mindanao, Abella said, “that is the declaration of the President.”

Lorenzana replied: “Because there are also problems in Zamboanga, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, also in Central Mindanao, the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Forces) area, and also some problems in Region 11 (Southern Mindanao) yung pangongotong ng NPA (extortion by the New Peoples’ Army).

He also said Duterte has repeatedly said that if he declares martial law in Mindanao, he would “finish” all the problems in Mindanao.

A black flag displayed on a police patrol vehicle taken over by members of the Maute Group on Tuesday afternoon, 23 May 2017. Photo courtesy of CHICO DIMARO USMAN

When a reporter asked if failure of intelligence is to blame for what happened in Marawi,  Lorenzana said, “there’s intelligence there. It’s just appreciation of what the intelligence means. Nagkamali sila (They erred).

How can the declaration of martial law help in the fight against the terrorists, Lorenzana was asked.  “We can control their movement, we can .. lahat nang gawin dapat sa martial law i-implement: arrest or detain people … supension of write of habeas corpus and details to follow na lang,” he said.


Since August last year, Duterte had repeatedly warned of martial law but it was only in March when he first specifically mentioned an area over which he would declare martial law: Mindanao.

“Either tulungan ninyo ako or I will declare martial law tomorrow for Mindanao,” Duterte warned on March 9 here as he exhorted governors and mayors of 13 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 … 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.”

Constitutional guarantees

The Constitution provides that a state of martial law “does not suspend the operation of the Constitution, nor supplant the functioning of the civil courts or legislative assemblies, nor authorize the conferment of jurisdiction on military courts and agencies over civilians where civil courts are able to function, nor automatically suspend the privilege of the writ”

The suspension of the privilege of the writ “shall apply only to persons judicially charged for rebellion or offenses inherent in or directly connected with the invasion,” it said.

It also provides that during the suspension of the privilege of the writ, any person arrested or detained shall be judicially charged within three days, otherwise he shall be released.

After the 60-day period, the President, according to the Constitution, can ask Congress to extend the proclamation “for a period to be determined by Congress, if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it.”

But the Constitution also provides that he Supreme Court “may review, in an appropriate proceeding filed by any citizen, the sufficiency of the factual basis of the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ or the extension thereof, and must promulgate its decision thereon within thirty days from its filing.”

State of National Emergency

Duterte’s martial law declaration came even as he has yet to lift the State of National Emergency that he declared in September last year.

President Duterte on September 4 signed Proclamation No. 55, declaring a “State of National Emergency on account of lawless violence in Mindanao.”

The declaration came two days after the night market bombing that left 15 persons dead and 69 others injured.

Proclamation 55, covering the entire country,  directs the Armed Forces of the Philippines (APF) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) 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, with due regard to the fundamental civil and political rights of our citizens.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)