Philippines: President Duterte won’t rule out nationwide martial law

President Duterte peers through the broken muzzle of a rifle after weapons confiscated during the Marawi siege were destroyed at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig yesterday. Krizjohn Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — Martial law in Mindanao can be expanded outside the region if enemies of the state converge and consolidate forces to topple the government, President Duterte said last night, with a warning to terrorists and rebels that the government would be ruthless against those who sow terror in the country.

Backed by the authority to impose military rule in Mindanao for one more year, Duterte did not discount the possibility that martial law could be expanded to the entire country.

“The government will not wait until the dying days of its existence. The government can always prevent that disaster… to what extent, level of atrocities or attacks, it is not for me to say… but the armed forces or the police,” Duterte said at a press briefing in Taguig.

He said he would not wait until the enemies are about to “slit our throat.”

“The existence of our democracy is not the comments of the opposition or those who are against me politically,” Duterte said.

“I will not wait for that day, for that 25th hour, for the hands of the clock to strike, for the bells to toll, to sound your knell of grief…,” he added, paraphrasing the words of author Ernest Hemingway.

The Chief Executive said he would not allow the enemies of the state to infringe on the rights of the people and destroy democracy.

“It is up to the enemies of the state… if the NPA say they are creating in mass numbers, they create trouble and they are armed… and about to destroy its government,” he said, referring to the New People’s Army.

No Christmas truce

Duterte does not see any reason to observe the traditional Christmas truce with the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, NPA, because the rebels might just take advantage of the situation to consolidate their forces.

“The only reason is you’d give advantage to the enemy. They will take advantage of that lull, giving space, time and motion to move against government forces,” he said.

The President said any decision to expand martial law will depend on the recommendation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.

“What makes it really very dangerous is if it reaches a level of point of no return for everybody. I will assess or evaluate as the facts come in,” he said.

Duterte noted that the soldiers and the police will be given “rotation” to allow them to spend time with their families.

While he understands the soldiers’ plight, he said members of security forces do not have that kind of luxury of going to their families, even during special occasions.

“The terrorists and the communists are the same. They kill with impunity and rob people,” he said.

Saying that the extremist terrorists and rebels are no different in terms of impunity, Duterte warned that these criminals cannot escape the long arm of the law.

Following the one-year extension of martial law, Duterte hinted that the government forces will be ruthless, if needed, just to prevent the enemies of the state from converging as one in fighting his administration.

“Yes, because they are terrorists… They are there in Mindanao… It’s a different thing there, there is a policy going on there. There is martial law… They are allowed to detain you for so many hours if you are alive. If you are dead, you should be in a funeral (parlor),” he said.

“It is an existing one. It is violence being spearheaded by the NPAs and those who quest for independence, the low sector of the MI(LF) and the MN (LF),” he added, stressing the need to address the issue.

Duterte said Mindanao would be open to all sorts of criminals and noted the danger that the terrorists might travel around Southeast Asia.

With the drug menace adding to the complexity of the problem, Duterte expressed concern that the government will be facing multiple enemies.

“They are scattered everywhere where they kidnap so many people… the vicious cycle of criminality, then Maute and then the remnants of terrorists,” he said.

“That is why Mindanao remains to be… the flashpoint for trouble.”

Duterte shrugged off criticisms hurled against him.

“No rebellion? Count the number of deaths. There is actually rebellion in Mindanao, fighting is going on,” he said.

Duterte thanks Congress

Duterte yesterday expressed gratitude to Congress for its imprimatur on the one-year extension of martial law and the suspension of the writ of heabeas corpus in Mindanao.

“I would like to thank Congress for understanding the plight of the Filipino,” he said a few hours after the supermajority in the Senate and the House of Representatives approved his request.

Duterte declared martial law last May 23 when Islamic State (IS)-inspired terrorists raised flags and attacked Marawi City on the same day. It was extended until Dec. 31 this year after the 60-day provision under the law.

As President, Duterte said he can just order troops to go after the threat groups but he needs the authority to come from Congress.

“Without martial law powers, it would be difficult for us, we can detain people for only a few hours. You think you can really solve the crime of rebellion?” he said, referring to the provisions under the prescribed period on the detention of suspects under current laws.

Duterte spoke before members of the military where he led the ceremonial destruction of weapons seized from the enemies during the operations in Marawi that the Chief Executive proclaimed as liberated from terrorists last Oct. 23.

The one-year extension, according to Duterte, is a “big window for all of us” to address the problem.

“I am not a dreamer but the reality of one year, if it’s one year, if the fighting is continuous, you’ll run out of people and weapons,” he said.

The commander-in-chief said he is ready to deploy the military’s 23 new attack helicopters to neutralize the enemies.

Now that he has acquired attack helicopters, Duterte said he will deploy them in Mindanao to turn the terrorists into “practice targets.”

“Patayan pala ang gusto ninyo (So, you want killing),” he said, adding that he wanted to purchase 50 more such helicopters if the government has enough funds.

Aside from the communists, Duterte appealed for more time to reach an agreement with the two Moro groups in the country.

“Bear with me, I will be dwelling on reality,” he added.

Prior to this, Malacañang called on Filipinos to continue to support the move to extend martial law in Mindanao in a bid to quell the continuing rebellion in the region.

“Public safety is our primordial concern; thus, we ask the public to stand behind the administration and rally behind our defenders to quell the continuing rebellion in Mindanao,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.

He also outlined the reasons such as the urgent need to eradicate the DAESH-inspired Da’awatul Islamiyah Waliyatul Masriq and other like-minded local/foreign terrorist groups and armed lawless groups, and the communist terrorists and their coddlers, supporters and financiers; and ensure the unhampered rehabilitation of war-torn Marawi and the lives of its residents.

“This is everyone’s shared responsibility. Together, we will prevail,” Roque said.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/12/14/1768251/duterte-wont-rule-out-nationwide-martial-law

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