PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday said the Islamic State (IS) international terrorist group was behind a “rebellion” in Mindanao, amid ongoing clashes between security forces and the IS-linked Maute group in Marawi City.
Recent terrorist activities in Mindanao are not just the work of the members of the Maute group, but are “purely ISIS,” Duterte said in remarks during an oath-taking ceremony in Malacañang, using another name for the IS.
“It’s purely ISIS, [they started with]different branches. Actually, [the]Maute brothers went to Libya and the other one,” Duterte said.
He said the terrorists had long planned to attack Marawi City, especially when the IS named Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon as its emir in the Philippines.
“This Marawi [attack]has long been planned. It could not be just a decision [that]‘let’s go to Mindanao,’” the President said.
But Duterte said the IS fighters in the country were penniless, as he repeated his claim that the unrest in Marawi City was funded by drug money.
Ongoing clashes in Marawi City have affected tens of thousands of residents and have resulted in the deaths of 120 terrorists, 25 soldiers and policemen, and 19 civilians.
The militants attacked Marawi, a Muslim-majority city, on Tuesday after the government attempted to arrest terrorist leader Isnilon Hapilon.
The siege prompted Duterte to place Mindanao under martial rule, and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus which allows warrantless arrests.
In his remarks on Thursday, Duterte said he would be the first to call for an end to martial law once Mindanao is “stable.”
“The earlier we attain the equanimity of the community, the stability, I’d be the first to clamor for the lifting of martial law,” he said.
He said the rising death toll of soldiers and police under his administration was pushing him to “hurry up” the war.
“I lose about three, four. It keeps on increasing every day for as long as that war rages on. I am one of those who are really hurrying it up,” the President said.
Duterte said it would be up to the military and the police to make recommendations based on the situation on the field.
“I’ll ask the military and police, ‘Are we okay? Because if we are, then let’s lift it (martial law) immediately,’” he said.
“But for as long as the military says, ‘Sir, hindi pa talaga kaya’ [we can’t finish it yet], and it’s beyond 60 days, Congress must understand that I may need more time,” the President added.
He also blasted critics who claimed he did not consult the military before deciding to declare martial law on May 23.
“You can hardly talk to the fools and to the stupid, they will never understand. You do not declare martial law without asking the soldiers and the policemen,” Duterte said.
The President made no specific mention of the military air strikes that accidentally killed 11 soldiers, but expressed regret for the death of security personnel because of the clashes.
“Marami akong patay [I have many dead], I’m very sad. Marami akong sundalong patay, marami akong pulis na patay [I have many dead soldiers, I have many dead police],” Duterte said.
General Order 1
The President meanwhile formally ordered the military to respect constitutional rights and recognize the role of the media following his declaration of martial law.
General Order 1, which Duterte signed on May 30 but was released by Malacañang only on Thursday, stated that “the Constitutional rights of the Filipino people shall be respected and protected at all times.”
“The Commission on Human Rights is hereby enjoined to zealously exercise its mandate under the 1987 Constitution, and to aid the Executive in ensuring the continued protection of the constitutional and human rights of all citizens,” the order read.
The order also highlighted the role of the media in “ensuring the timely dissemination of true and correct information to the public.”
“Media practitioners are therefore requested to exercise prudence in the performance of their duties so as not to compromise the security and safety of the Armed Forces and law enforcement personnel,” it said.
The order also noted that during the suspension of the privilege of the writ, “any person arrested or detained… shall be judicially charged within three days, otherwise he shall be released.”
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana was named martial law administrator, and Armed Forces Chief of Staff Eduardo Año as implementor. Año was earlier named martial law administrator.
“The Martial Law Administrator, the Martial Law Implementor, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and other law enforcement agencies shall implement this order within the limits of prescribed by the Constitution and existing laws, rules and regulations,” the order said.
“More specifically, a state of martial law does not suspend the operation of the Constitution, nor supplant the functioning of civil courts or legislative assemblies, nor authorize the conferment of jurisdiction on military courts and agencies over civil courts,’” it added.