By carolyn o. arguillas
“DO not be too scared,” President Duterte said on the presidential plane bound for Manila from Moscow. “I’m going home. I’m cutting my visit here to be with my countrymen, and I will deal with the problem once I arrive.”
But just as soon as the President gave this assurance, he announced, in a video footage posted by Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson, that he has declared martial law “for Mindanao” and for those who have experienced martial law before, “it would not be any different from what President Marcos did.”
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella told a press conference in Moscow on Tuesday (11 pm in the Philippines) that Duterte declared martial law in all of Mindanao as of 10 pm that day. Mindanao has 27 provinces and 33 cities under six regions.
The declaration came hours after clashes in downtown Marawi City between government forces and the terrorist Maute Group left three government forces dead and 12 others injured. The Maute group also occupied several buildings and burned some structures.
Abella said the declaration that placed Mindanao under martial law was “good for 60 days” but Duterte said this depends on the developments and that “if it would take a year to do it, then we’ll do it.”
“Let me just tell everybody that I have declared martial law for Mindanao. How long? Well, how, how, if it would take a year to do it, then we’ll do it, if it is over within a month, then I’d be happy,” Duterte said in the video post.
But Duterte quickly added: “Pero ang martial law is martial law ha so kayong mga kababayan ko, you have experienced martial law, itong ngayon, it would not be any different from what President Marcos did. I’ll be I’ll be harsh.”
Marcos placed the entire country under martial law through Proclamation 1081 which he reportedly signed on Sept. 21, 1972, did a “paper lifting” on Jan. 17, 1981 but continued to rule until he was ousted by People Power in February 1986.
Exactly when Duterte signed the proclamation to declare martial law, the proclamation number and other details, have yet to be revealed. Abella told reporters covering the President’s official visit in Moscow that “details will be forthcoming.”
Asked why the martial law declaration was for all of Mindanao, Abella said, “that is the declaration of the President.”
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana replied: “Because there are also problems in Zamboanga, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, also in Central Mindanao, the Biff (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Forces) area, and also some problems in Region 11 (Southern Mindanao) yung pangongotong ng NPA (extortion by the New Peoples’ Army).”
He also said Duterte has repeatedly said that if he declares martial law in Mindanao, he would “finish” all the problems in Mindanao.
When a reporter asked if failure of intelligence is to blame for what happened in Marawi, Lorenzana said, “There’s intelligence there. It’s just appreciation of what the intelligence means. Nagkamali sila.”
How can the declaration of martial law help in the fight against the terrorists, Lorenzana was asked. “We can control their movement, we can… lahat nang gawin dapat sa martial law i-implement: arrest or detain people… suspension of writ of habeas corpus and details to follow na lang,” he said. (carolyn o. arguillas / MindaNews)