Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo has decided not to oppose President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao on Tuesday, after she was briefed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines on the terrorist attack by the Maute group–an ISIS sympathizer–in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.
Robredo was briefed on Wednesday morning or ahead of the arrival of Duterte from his shortened official visit to Russia.
“It is hard to say [whether the martial law declaration should cover the whole of Mindanao]because while the military operation is focused on Marawi, there’s a possibility that similar incidents could also spring from other parts of Mindanao. That’s why the appeal of our Armed Forces is for the public to be calm and responsible in disseminating information because false information would not help at this point,” Robredo told reporters.
“What the military told me is that since we are still in the state of emergency and that is yet to be lifted as a result of the Davao bombing, this [martial law in Mindanao]is the next step. We would be waiting for further word from the President because under our Constitution, the President is mandated to give Congress information on why the declaration of martial law is necessary,” the Vice President, a lawyer, said.
She was referring to the constitutional provision requiring the President to justify the declaration of martial law before Congress 48 hours after imposing it.
Within those 48 hours, Congress, in a joint session, can revoke or uphold the martial law declaration.
The Vice President expressed confidence in the competence of the military.
“We should trust our soldiers in taking needed actions against terrorism. The Armed Forces leadership wants to normalize the situation in Marawi, and we should support them in their efforts. Our enemy here are the terrorists, and we should work together,” Robredo said.
“They [military]assured me that they have control of the situation, and I thanked them for the service,” she added.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte agreed with the President’s decision putting the entire Mindanao island under martial law.
“As a Mindanaoan, I believe the President made the right call. There is chaos over there, and this is a lingering problem. We need to take action to address this, and the President has the power to declare martial law,” Alvarez said.
The PDP-Laban, the political party headed by President Duterte, also backed his decision.
“The PDP-Laban supports the decision of its party chairman, President Duterte, to declare martial law over the entire island of Mindanao. We believe that a temporary state of martial law, used properly, can be an effective tool to achieve the peace and development in Mindanao that our party has fought for throughout our existence,” the ruling party said in a statement.
An ally of the President from another political party, Nacionalista Party congressman LRay Villafuerte of Camarines Sur, shared PDP-Laban’s sentiments.
“The decisive move made by the President is a clear signal to all that the government is on top of the situation and is capable of protecting the citizenry,” Villafuerte, vice chairman of the House Committee on Defense, said in a statement.
But for Rep. Gary Alejano of Magdalo party-list who is a former Marine captain, placing the entire Mindanao under martial law is worrisome considering that Maute attacks are confined only to Lanao del Norte province.
“Aside from the Maute group, security problems in Western and Central Mindanao have been there for the longest time. This may mean that martial law could extend much longer than intended. Let us be vigilant that such declaration would not be abused in the process,” Alejano said.
He clarified that he is counting on security forces to contain the Maute and other threat groups the soonest possible time and prevent any spillover to other parts of the country.
“Let us pray for the safety of our soldiers and police and the community caught in between. Good luck to our troops!” Alejano said.