MANILA – President Duterte on Wednesday said he may widen the coverage of martial law to “include the Visayas”, adding that he is also mulling over the suspension of privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. And should he see that ISIS has gained foothold further north, he said, he may include Luzon.
Duterte made the statement at the NAIA, as he returned from an official trip to Russia, which he cut short by three days after being briefed late Tuesday of the standoff in Marawi City between government forces and the homegrown terrorist groups that the military spokesman said were courting recognition from ISIS..
The President had justified the declaration of martial law in Mindanao, suggesting the recent developments in Marawi should be taken in the context of a “string” of terrorist incidents in the region. He cited events from the September 2, 2016, bombing of a night market in Davao to the Zambaonga siege by the MNLF in 2013.
The Visayas, he meanwhile said, is “walking distance” from Mindanao Island which, he added, will be “embargoed” as per his orders to the military. Later on in his speech, he said the threat of ISIS was spreading to the rest of the country, and so he would also consider having Luzon covered by his order for martial law, particularly if he is convinced that ISIS has established presence there.
At the start of the open forum following his arrival speech, Duterte was asked why he had to cover the whole of Mindanao- the second largest island – in his martial law declaration when the fighting as limited to Marawi City.
Duterte said that “there should be no singularization” of his constitutional mandate “to enforce the law and provide security” to citizens. He added that, “in all decision and actions, let me assure you the primordial concern is safety and welfare of our people.
Citing the Zamboanga siege and the series of bombings including that in his home city of Davao, he reminded everyone that through “all of these and other things..the government decided to just remain tolerant. Not oblivious to the terrorist acts, but there has been a suggestion in the past that I declare martial law.” He said “even some senators urged me to do it,” but he took his time deciding. He sought to assure people declaring martial law took a long time coming, and was not a spur of the moment decision.
He recalled telling a command conference “that one of these days, the hardest thing to deal with is the arrival of ISIS in this country..and it has come to pass.”