Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has declared martial law in all parts of Mindanao late Tuesday night. The order was issued amid his official visit to Russia.
During a joint press briefing in Moscow, Russia, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella alongside Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano announced that President Duterte has made the declaration following the clashes between government forces and a terrorist group in Marawi City.
“(Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra) has clarified that this was possible on the grounds of existence of rebellion because of what is happening in Mindanao based on Article 7, Section 18 of the Constitution. This is good for 60 days.”
According to reports, Duterte’s decision to put the entire island of Mindanao under martial law drew negative reactions, especially since the conflict was only confined in Marawi City.
However, he pointed out that the decision was made to address not only the conflict in Marawi City but also the security problems in other areas such as Sulu, Zamboanga, Central Mindanao, and Davao Region.
Lorenzana added that declaring martial law in Mindanao will help the government “control the terrorists’ movements.”
“Everything that needs to be done during the martial law, we will implement. Control of movement, searches and arrest of detained people for suspension of writ of habeas corpus.”
President Rodrigo Duterte already expressed his hope that the conflict in Mindanao will be over within a month. However, he also pointed out that he will not be hesitant to keep the island under martial law for a year if needed. Duterte also bluntly warned the terrorists that he will be “harsh” in dealing with them.
In a short video clip posted by Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson, Duterte revealed that he will take the matter seriously. His interview roughly translates to:
“Martial Law is Martial Law. My fellow Filipinos, you have experienced Martial Law. It could not be any different from what President [Ferdinand] Marcos did. I’d be… I’d be harsh.”
It can be recalled that Marawi City in Mindanao has been under conflict after the military launched a surgical strike in Barangay Basak Malutlut. According to reports, the military was going after a “high-value target,” allegedly a member of the Abu Sayyaf and Maute group.
The Maute group, which is believed to be affiliated with the ISIS, has occupied several establishments in Marawi City including Amai Pakpak Hospital and parts of Mindanao State University.
Other facilities were also burned by the terrorist group including St. Mary’s Chruch, Marawi City Jail, Ninoy Aquino School, and Dansalan College. Residents also reported that power has been shut down in the whole city and that they are locking themselves inside their homes in fear for their safety.
Although unconfirmed, the defense secretary reportedly believes that the Maute group is being backed up by ISIS, pointing out that photos of the attack in Marawi City are already posted on the website of the terrorist group.
— GMA News (@gmanews) May 23, 2017
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his sympathy over the Marawi City attack during his bilateral meeting with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
According to reports, Putin had rushed back to Moscow upon learning that Duterte had to fly home immediately due to the said attack. The meeting was originally scheduled to take place on Thursday, May 25.
“I’d like to express my condolences because of the horrible terrorist attacks,” Putin told Duterte during their meeting inside the Kremlin.
“My colleagues understand you have to return to your motherland. I hope it will be resolved as soon as possible with minimal losses.”
Duterte revealed on his way back to the Philippines that his last-minute meeting with Putin was “positive.” No further details have been released yet regarding the said meeting.
President Duterte’s official visit to Russia was cut short by three days, leaving on May 24 instead of May 26.
[Featured Image by Maxim Shemetov/AP Images]