PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has justified his martial law declaration by citing the ongoing Marawi City clashes as proof that local terror group Maute wants to control Mindanao, a critical step in its goal of establishing a wilayat or Islamic State (IS) province.
In a report submitted to the Senate and the House of Representatives, Duterte said the Maute group’s attempted siege of Marawi City was part of its “long-standing goal” to take over the region.
“The events commencing on 23 May 2017 put on public display the groups’ clear intention to establish an Islamic state and their capability to deprive the duly constituted authorities — the President foremost — of their powers and prerogatives,” Duterte said.
He explained his decision to declare martial law under Proclamation 216, not just in Marawi but in the entire Mindanao, by saying the Marawi attacks put at risk the entire southern region.
“The group’s occupation of Marawi City fulfills a strategic objective because of its terrain and the easy access it provides to other parts of Mindanao. Lawless armed groups have historically used provinces adjoining Marawi City as escape routes, supply lines, and backdoor passages,” he added.
In his report, Duterte said the Maute attempted to remove Marawi City from its allegiance to the government by killing residents who resisted the attempted takeover, cutting transportation and power lines, and displaying “Daesh” or IS flags.
“There is no doubt that lawless armed groups are attempting to deprive the President of his power, authority, and prerogatives within Marawi City as a precedent to spreading their control over the entire Mindanao, in an attempt to undermine his control over executive departments, bureaus and offices in said area; defeat his mandate to ensure that all laws are faithfully executed; remove his supervisory powers over local governments,” he said.
The siege of Marawi hampered the operations of several hospitals and government services, as the local terror group blocked roads and bridges leading into the city, he said.
According to Duterte, the Maute group, composed of 263 members, “chiefly operates” in Lanao del Sur.
It has networks and links with regional and local armed groups Jemaah Islamiyah, Mujahidin Indonesia Timur, and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), he said.
“Latest information indicates that about 75 percent of Marawi City has been infiltrated by lawless armed groups composed of members of the Maute Group and the ASG,” Duterte said.
The President also cited numerous acts of violence in Mindanao such as the Zamboanga siege, the Davao bombing, the Mamasapano clash, and other bombings in Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sulu and Basilan, as part of a brewing rebellion in the region.
Inciting rebellion is one of the grounds for declaring martial law, as stated in the 1987 Constitution.
“Considering the network and alliance-building activities among terrorist groups, local criminals, and lawless armed men, the siege of Marawi City is a vital cog in attaining their long-standing goal: absolute control over the entirety of Mindanao. These circumstances demand swift and decisive action to ensure the safety and security of the Filipino people and preserve out national integrity,” Duterte said.
Duterte submitted to House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd his report justifying martial law at 9:55 p.m. on Tuesday night. Both congressional leaders were in Davao City to join the President’s special Cabinet meeting.
He declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23 in Moscow, and cut short a four-day official visit in Russia.
Duterte is the third Philippine president to declare martial law. Then president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo imposed military rule in Mindanao in 2009 after the Maguindanao massacre, while Ferdinand Marcos began his strongman rule with his martial law Proclamation 1081 in 1972.