Duterte to rely on AFP, PNP advice in deciding extension of ML in Mindanao

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Duterte Marawi with troops
President Duterte rubs elbows with troops fighting terrorists in Marawi. He said he did not think soldiers had stolen civilians things during the siege, and had seen them use on occasion the amenities in house converted into hospitals or operations meeting rooms. PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO DESK FILE

MANILA – President Duterte said Saturday he will lean heavily on the final recommendation of the Armed Forces and the National Police on the matter of extending martial law in Mindanao beyond Dec. 31, the new deadline approved by Congress at the height of government engagement with terrorists in Marawi.

“The declaration of martial law is always dependent on what the Armed Forces and the police say. Kung anong sabihin ng armed forces pati police [Whatever the AFP and PNP say], since they’re the ones who will be engaged….we should give credence to it,” the President said at a press conference in Davao City.

Responding to a reporter’s question on whether, with the developments in Marawi now, he was ready to lift the martial law declaration any time soon, Duterte said: “You know, declaration of martial law is always dependent [on] what the Armed Forces and the police recommends.

He pointed out that “they are the two entities that would be relied upon heavily by a President or Head of State when he entertains something like extreme measures — martial law, state of emergency.”

Whatever the Armed Forces and police say, “since they are the ones also who would be totally engaged . . . if there’s . . . trouble there, we should give credence to it actually,” the President stressed.

He said he was confident the security establishment would not “fabricate events” or dish out misleading reports just to lay the basis for a martial law extension.

Soldiers stealing? I don’t think so – Duterte

Asked if he himself had received any reports – since the martial law declaration – of abuses by soldiers in the communities during the Marawi siege, Duterte said, “No [and] I do not believe that the soldiers were there to [steal residents’ things]… Paano nila manakaw ‘yan [How can they steal those]? I was there. And they were billeted in houses. And they were using the amenities” of the houses where they were staying at any given time during the course of the five-month war, he explained.

“‘[The] refrigerator. There was power. Ginagamit ‘yan mga [They’re using the] electric fans. And kung ‘yan lang, I am not ready to put to task my soldiers. ‘Yung sabihin mong mga furniture. Paano nila dalhin?” Duterte wondered aloud.

When soldiers exit an area, all they bring with them are their guns and their knapsack and it’s so easy to see if anyone brought out anything he did not own, he pointed out.

Pag move out mo, ang dala-dala mo lang ‘yung knapsack mo pati baril mo. Eh ‘di makita ka ng opisyal [When you move out, all you can carry is your knapsack and your gun]. Those are very large things that you cannot hide in your pocket. And I do not believe na para ‘yan lang, nakawin ng sundalo [that soldiers would steal just for stuff like that].”

He confirmed that, from what he witnessed when he visited the site, the troops on the ground were using basic amenities: “ginamit nila, tama ‘yan kasi napunta ako [the soldiers used the amenities, that’s right, when I went there] several times. I went to the houses used as hospitals, emergency.”

He recalled going to one house “where they used to confer and I attended one using an electric fan, probably also borrowed. But I do not think my soldiers would be… Alam nila ‘yan [They know better than that].”