MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Tuesday, July 11, sought to ease fears of abuses under a prolonged imposition of martial rule in Mindanao, pointing to safeguards in the Constitution intended to keep in check the the “extraordinary powers” of martial law.
In a statement, the administrator of martial law also hinted that he favored a shorter martial law extension period over the 5-year extension pushed by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez after the 60-day declaration expires on July 22.
“While we respect the position of our lawmakers and laud their support to the military, we believe that the declaration of Martial Law is an extraordinary power of the President as Commander-in-Chief that must be resorted to only when warranted by our national security circumstances,” he said.
“Our Constitution has prescribed limitations precisely to prevent its being abused as it has implications to the country’s peace and order, economy, trade, tourism, and our people’s way of life,” Lorenzana added.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police earlier said they were “inclined” to recommend to the President the extension of Proclamation 216, which placed Mindanao under martial law starting May 23.
On Tuesday, Lorenzana said the military will follow whatever decision the President would make regarding the extension of martial law in Mindanao. He assured the people that if this would be the case, they can depend on the military to protect them.
“As the Administrator of martial law in Mindanao, we will follow whatever path will be laid out by the national government,” he said.
“The Filipino people can rest assured, however, that if martial law is extended, they can continue to trust their defense and security establishments since every decision we make and operation we undertake is anchored on the rule of law and respect for human rights. They can trust their Armed Forces to protect them and advance the people’s best interest,” he added.
‘Not too long’
On Monday, military spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla Jr also hinted at extending martial law in Mindanao although he said a 5-year extension of martial law may be “too long.”
“Our primary basis is whether or not we have accomplished the operational directives given to us at the very beginning of martial law,” said Padilla in a briefing in Malacañang.
PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa gave the same reaction on Tuesday, July 11, in a chance interview with reporters.
“Basta ako pag tatanungin ako, sasabihin ko extend pa. Kung tatanungin ako (If I’m asked, I’ll recommend an extension. That is, if I’m asked),” said Dela Rosa, referring to a shorter period of extension.
“Hindi naman yung 5 years. ‘Yung 60, 60 [days] lang muna (But not a 5-year extension. Maybe extensions of 60 days),” added the PNP chief.
Duterte earlier said he would consult both the military and police in evaluating the need for an extension of the martial law period.
Duterte issued Proclamation 216 on May 23 after fighting erupted between government forces and homegrown terrorist groups in Marawi City.
The declaration aimed to establish “rule of law” in Marawi City, ground zero of fighting between Muslim extremists and government troops.
The crisis has entered its 8th week on Tuesdday. The military said less than a hundred terrorists still occupied pockets of Marawi City, but they are heavily armed and well trained. Marawi’s death toll has breached the 500-mark, mostly on the terrorists’ side.
As martial law administrator, Lorenzana also issued orders to arrest about 300 individuals listed in martial law arrest orders. So far, only over 60 persons have been arrested.
The Supreme Court upheld the martial law declaration in Mindanao. A minority of justices, however, argued that the declaration should not have covered the entire Mindanao.
Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, the government’s former chief peace negotiator in Mindanao, was the lone dissenter in the High Court, arguing that Proclamation 216 is unconstitutional.
Here is Lorenzana’s full statement:
– With a report from Bea Cupin / Rappler.com