DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 21 July) — A day before Congress’ joint session to tackle the proposed extension of martial law over Mindanao’s 27 provinces and 33 cities until yearend, the President said he needs the extension “because I have to rehabilitate” and prepare for the expected “retaliation” from the ISIS-inspired Maute Group and its allies.
Duterte told reporters after speaking at the Davao Investment Conference here Friday that there are Moro and Christians in “every space in Mindanao” and that supporters and sympathizers of these groups “migh spur others just to do the same.”
“Mindanao specifically is a land of the mixed,” the first Mindanawon President said, adding he is “hindi masyadong kampante” (not so confident) because there will be mopping up operations when the Marawi Crisis is over, and the land boundary is “very porous.”
“Either you can go to Zamboanga and to Jolo and Basilan and even in Davao” from Marawi, the President said, explaining it’s “a way of .. trying to control things” so that if there is a spillover of the crisis in other parts of Mindanao, “it will not be as great as when you did not have this stopgap.”
The proposed extension until December 31, 2017, or a total of 223 days from May 23, is based on the recommendation, according to Duterte, of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).
Duterte issued Proclamation 216 on May 23, declaring a state of martial law and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus effective 10 that evening, some eight hours after the Marawi Crisis left two soldiers and a policeman.
In a letter to Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Jr. earlier this week, the President said that upon a “thorough, personal assessment” of the current situation in Marawi City and other parts of Mindanao, he had “come to the conclusion that the rebellion in Mindanao will not be quelled completely” by July 22, the last day of the 60-day period provided under the Constitution.
Duterte also sought extension of the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus until December 31 “or for such a period of time as the Congress may determine” for the reasons he cited and “because public safety requires it.”
The President was asked to comment on AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Ano’s statement that the President might lift martial law even before the yearend, Duterte replied: “if there is no more ISIS doing his thing, there is no more rebellion what am I supposed to do with martial law? I get my salary with or without a martial law.”
“I can operate with or without martial law,” Duterte told reporters.
“So I don’t need martial law. Kung ayaw ninyo (If you don’t like it), then we will just have to arrest persons (with warrant) because martial law gives me the power to arrest a person without warrant.”
“Now pag wala na yan (if martial law is terminated) and if I have to arrest you without a warrant, I will arrest you without a warrant with or without martial law if I think that it is part of the war. So I believe in good faith na kasali ka sa rebelde, huhulihin kita (I will arrest you) with or without martial law,” Duterte said.
The Revised Penal Code allows warrantless arrests under specific circumstances, such as when in the presence of the policeman, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense; when an offense has just been committed, and he has probable cause to believe, based on personal knowledge of facts or circumstances, that the person to be arrested has committed it and when the person to be arrested is a prisoner who has escaped from a penal establishment.
Reactions to extension
Civil society leaders in Marawi who are also among the thousands of internally displaced persons, are opposing the extension of martial law.
“Martial law will only strengthen the militarist response to the crisis and discredit local peacekeeping, peace processes, Maranao conflict resolution ways,” Samira Ali Gutoc of the Ranao Rescue Team said.
Agakhan Sharief, a prominent civil society leader in Marawi who owns several schools there, said former Presidents did not resort to declaring martial law to solve a crisis.
Sharief said martial law was immediately declared in Marawi but it has not resolved the crisis. “This means martial law is not effective, just like Marcos’ martial law. This will merely breed a new rebellion because of so many human rights violations,” Sharief said in Filipino.
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is the lone President, post-Marcos, who declared martial law but only for a few days — December 4 to December 12, 2009 — following the November 23, 2009 Ampatuan Massacre of 58 persons, 32 of them from the media.
ARMM Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesperson of the Provincial Crisis Management Committee said they respect the decision of the President to seek an extension of martial law.
He said he understands that given the threat posed by the local terrorist groups and the support of their foreign allies, extraordinary measures are necessary. “We need to win the fight against violent extremism and for this we support the President.”
But Adiong also aid that the fight against violent extremism cannot be won “if we lose the support of our people.”
Malaybalay Bishop Jose Cabantan said he respects the wisdom of our leaders about martial law but “extending might make martial law as an ordinary, normal situation. It is said to be temporary and in extraordinary situation.”
“I also support the opinion not to make Marawi as justification of extending martial law. I believe in the capacity of our armed forces to clip the powers of these terrorists as they claim they can. So even without martial law and suspending the writ of habeas corpus, they can do it,” Cabantan said.
On May 26, three days after the Marawi Crisis started, Mindanao’s Catholic bishops acknowledged there are many fears about the President’s martial law declaration but as of that time, there are “no solid and sufficient facts to absolutely reject the declaration of Martial Law as morally reprehensible.”
“But we are certainly agreed that Martial Law must be temporary,” the Bishops said in a statement dated May 26, as they vowed to “condemn any abuse of Martial Law and as in the past will condemn it outright if it goes in the way of evil.”
“Let us be vigilant,” the Bishops said.
Lawyer Sherrymae O. Velos, President of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines in Bukidnon said that personally, she does not want martial law extended because “it only shows the efforts of the military are not enough. If they need to extend, one month is more than enough I think.”
But Velos acknowledged that “if there are still compelling reasons to extend martial rule, then I trust the decision of the President since he knows many things given his arsenal of intelligence network that we do not know.”
“It is up to the House of Representatives and the senate to decide, as the mandate is given to them, to decide whether more than five months of extension is too long or not. Personally, if the President needs that much more time then by all means give it to him, anyway he can always cut it short if there is no more need for martial rule,” she said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas and Walter Balane / MindaNews)