Duterte says no martial law – except in Mindanao

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 6) — President Rodrigo Duterte will not place any other part of the country under martial law, saying only Mindanao needs it to quell the rebellion.

Duterte made this assurance Tuesday, days after Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo floated military rule as among the President's options in response to the spate of killings on Negros Island.

"Let us make it clear. I will never declare martial law, except in Mindanao, talagang kailangan (it's really needed) because there was already the rebellion," Duterte said in a speech before city mayors in Malacañang.

Martial law has been in place in the island region of Mindanao since May 2017, following the attack on Marawi by local and international terrorists. It will be in effect there until yearend, although National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon plans to recommend its extension until December 31, 2020

"What I said was that I would take drastic action," Duterte said. "I might declare another thing and that is for you to guess what would it be, pero (but) martial law? Suspension of writ of habeas corpus? It's just a proclamation, nothing." Suspending the privilege of the writ of the habeas corpus would allow warrantless arrests.

Duterte in a speech last week warned he is "about to do something drastic" as he lamented the brutal killing of four policemen in Negros Oriental, alleged by armed communist rebels. The cops were among the 21 killed in the province in a span of a little more than a week. The New People's Army, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, denied hand in the slays.

Panelo earlier said that the only way to address the killings is if the President would use his emergency powers – either declaring martial law in Negros or calling on the Armed Forces "to quell lawless violence." The nation continues to await Duterte's next move.

In a separate media briefing, Panelo said Duterte told Cabinet members on Monday that the killings in Negros do not meet the constitutional requirement for declaring military rule.

"Under the Constitution, dapat may (there should be) rebellion. Sa ngayon, unbridled patayan pa lang nangyayari (killings are what's happening)," Panelo said.

The Constitution states that the President as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces may place the entire country or any part of it under martial law "in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it." The declaration lasts for 60 days, but in the case of Mindanao, Congress has granted all three requests for an extension as Duterte stressed the need for martial law to address the rebellion in Mindanao.