Rule of law and human rights paramount in implementation of Martial Law: Defense Department

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 25) — "Rule of law and human rights should prevail," the Department of National Defense (DND) reminded on Thursday authorities who will carry out Martial Law in Mindanao.

In a memorandum issued to Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief Eduardo Año and DND agencies, it said President Rodrigo Duterte's declaration of Martial Law in the region does not supersede rights enshrined in the 1987 Constitution.

"The AFP and all bureaus and agencies of this department are hereby enjoined that the rule of law and human rights should prevail in the place or part of Philippines and where Martial Law was declared and effective," said the memorandum dated May 24 signed by DND officer-in-charge Undersecretary for Civil, Veterans, and Retiree Affairs Eduardo del Rosario.

Arrests, searches, and seizures in Mindanao, including the filing of charges, must comply with court rules and existing law, the memorandum added.

It ordered DND bureaus and agencies involved in humanitarian activities to assist persons affected or displaced in conflict areas in Mindanao.

Duterte placed Mindanao under Martial Rule on May 23 because of the crisis in Marawi City. Over 50 members of local terror group Maute entered the acity and engaged in gunbattles with government troops.

He placed the entire region under martial law because of the security problems in nearby areas, such as Sulu, Zamboanga peninsula, Central Mindanao, and the Davao region.

The President on Thursday raised the possibility of expanding the area of coverage to Visayas, and even nationwide.

"I might also decide to suspend the writ of habeas corpus in the Visayas," Duterte said. The President pointed out that because of the many islands in the south that were "just walking distance" from each other, lawless elements could always escape to any of them.

Eleven bandits from the Abu Sayyaf group sailed from Sulu to the island province of Bohol in April in an attempt to kidnap tourists from the popular tourist destinations there, police and military said.

He added, "If I think that the ISIS has already taken foothold also in Luzon and terrorism is really not far behind, I might declare Martial Law throughout the country to protect the people," Duterte said, referring to militants from the Islamic State. Maute has tried to affiliate itself with ISIS.

READ: Duterte: Possible nationwide martial law; could last longer

Duterte assured FIlipinos there will be no abuses of any kind under Martial Law, but he would be "harsh" in enforcing the law.

READ: Duterte on martial law: 'I'd be harsh'

He added checkpoints, warrantless arrests and searches would be allowed in Mindanao, "If you are identified positively on the other side, you can be arrested and detained."

On Thursday, he appointed Año as Martial Law adminstrator.

Año said on Thursday the AFP will follow the rule of law to avoid abuses.