How to implement martial law? No AFP, PNP guidelines yet

Bea Cupin
How to implement martial law? No AFP, PNP guidelines yet
Top defense and security officials were in Russia when supposed members of the Maute Group clashed with government forces in Marawi City

MANILA, Philippines – More than 12 hours after President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire Mindanao island group under martial law, the military and police have yet to be given specific orders on how to go about it.

“Wala pa tayong malinaw na specifics kung ano talaga ang puwedeng gawin (We still don’t have clear specifics when it comes to what can be done),” said Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Public Affairs Office chief Colonel Edgard Arevalo on Wednesday, May 24.

The Philippine National Police (PNP), as of posting time, is likewise still “crafting the guidelines” in the implementation of martial law.

Duterte made the declaration while in Russia late Tuesday evening, May 23 (Manila time), following sporadic clashes between government forces and alleged members of the terrorist Maute Group in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. At least two soldiers and one policeman have died as a result of these clashes.

Aravelo, however, explained that with or without martial law, “warrantless arrests” in the form of “citizen’s arrests” are allowed. Law enforcers may also arrest suspects without warrants provided they have personal knowledge of crimes committed.

The AFP colonel added: “Ang mahalaga lamang po na binabanggit natin dito ay ‘wag po sanang magugulat ang ating mga kababayan if there will be checkpoints, kung magkakaroon ng deployment ng mas maraming sundalo, hindi po ito reflection ng napakalaking kaguluhang napipinto kundi ito ay reflection ng kakayanan ng ating pamahalaan, ng ating security forces na tugunan ang ano mang banta in a scale that is necessary.”

(The public should not be surprised if there will be checkpoints, the deployment of more soldiers. This is not a reflection of chaos that’s about to erupt but a reflection of the capacity of our government and security forces’ capability to respond to threats in a scale that is necessary.)

Top officials in Russia

At Camp Crame, the PNP’s top officials held a conference to discuss the situation in Marawi City. Officials from the Directorate of Operations and the Legal Service – both tasked to craft guidelines for the declaration of martial law – were supposed to brief the media on May 24.

The briefing was canceled, however, after police officials were instructed to wait for Duterte and PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa.

Part of Duterte’s official entourage during what was supposed to be a 4-day official trip to Russia included his top defense officials. Aside from Dela Rosa, AFP chief General Eduardo Año, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr were also in Russia when the Maute Group first clashed with government forces.

Top police officials, among others, are set to brief Duterte and Dela Rosa in Malacañang upon their arrival from Russia.

The Philippine president may, “in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it,” suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the country under martial law. The Philippine Constitution says martial law must not exceed 60 days.

Within 48 hours of the declaration, the President has to submit a report “in person or in writing” to Congress. The declaration may be revoked by a Congressional vote. Most legislators are allies of the President.

The Supreme Court may also review the basis of the declaration.

Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella earlier said martial law would last 60 days but Duterte himself said it could last up to a year. That’s not up to him, however. Congress – the Senate and the House of Representatives – must approve the extension. –

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.