MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte said at the weekend he will abide by the Supreme Court ruling and order the troops’ withdrawal should the high court strike down his martial law declaration in Mindanao, where government forces have been locked in deadly fighting with terrorist groups since May 23.
However, the President said in remarks to soldiers he visited late Saturday, he would not hesitate to issue a new martial law proclamation if the situation deteriorates and troops are needed to quell the extremists led by the Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf Group’s sub-leader Isnilon Hapilon, tagged the emir for Southeast Asia of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Responding to reporters’ queries about Duterte’s remarks, presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Sunday: “The President’s media interview yesterday after visiting the troops in Butuan underscores that he adheres to the rule of law and judicial independence.”
The President “made it clear,” noted Abella, “that if the Supreme Court decides against the declaration of martial law, he would pull out the military in Marawi City on the ground that the High Court does not believe there is a rebellion.”
Abella continued: “The President likewise made it clear that if and when there is another similar incident of rebellion, when the public safety requires it, the President and Commander-in-Chief would again declare martial law and police power given to the Executive by no less than our Constitution.”
The SC held three days of oral arguments on June 13-15 on five petitions questioning the basis for the martial law declaration, and asking the high court to compel Congress to convene in joint session to pass upon the proclamation.
In consolidated comments submitted to the SC, Solicitor General Jose Calida said the government received on May 18 intelligence that the Maute Group led by brothers Omarkhayam and Abdullah Maute were planning to raid Marawi, Iligan and Cagayan de Oro cities as part of a grand vision to set up a caliphate for ISIS in Southeast Asia.
The terrorists were prompted to advance the planned raid on Marawi by three days after government troops tried to apprehend Hapilon from a house in Marawi on May 23, with the resulting defense by the Mautes sparking the three-week-old siege.
No reports on rights abuses
Abella, meanwhile, was also sought for comment on reported remarks by the Commission on Human Rights that no rights abuses have been reported under the Mindanao martial law, imposed through Proclamation 216 on May 23.
Abella said, “We welcome the remarks of the CHR that there have been no reports of human rights abuses and/or violations committed by authorities after the President placed the whole island of Mindanao under martial law.
“Let this put to rest the fears and anxiety of some quarters against martial law. As we said in previous occasions, public safety is foremost in the President’s mind in light of the continuing rebellion in Marawi and martial law is a necessary response to address the prevailing reign of terror and its potential spillover to the rest of Mindanao,” said Abella.