Duterte says he declared martial law to avoid impeachment
MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte told troops in Marawi City that he declared martial law in Mindanao to avoid impeachment.
He would have been ripe for impeachment, he said, if he did not declare military rule despite being told by security officials that the Marawi crisis was at “critical” levels.
“Because of the critical condition as assessed by your military and your defense department, I had to declare martial law, otherwise I would be a candidate for impeachment also,” Duterte said in Camp Ranao on Thursday, July 20, his first visit to the war-torn city since the clashes began on May 23.
“Mas mabigat ‘yan. Puwede ako maalis sa puwesto at mapahiya (That’s more serious. I can be removed from office and put to shame),” he added.
The President did not explain how a decision not to proclaim martial law is a violation of the Constitution or can be construed as an impeachable offense.
According to the 1987 Constitution, the president can be impeached for “culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust.”
Duterte made the statement while he explained to the soldiers how much he grieved for government and civilian casualties in the Marawi crisis, which neared its 10th week.
“Pero I grieve maski doon sa namatayan na mga civilian, ganoon din para sa akin, lalo na sa sundalo na ako ang nag-utos na pumunta kayo dito para makipag-away at mamatay,” he said.
(But I grieve even for the civilians, and more so for the soldiers who I ordered to come here to fight and to die.)
As he was recalling how sad he would get from reading briefers on the Marawi death toll, he paused as if overwhelmed by his feelings.
For this reason, he said, he was determined to visit Marawi City, not during peace time, but while the conflict was ongoing.
“Kaya ako nagpilit din dito, sabi ko pupunta talaga ako (That’s why I really forced this visit, I really said I’ll go),” he said, adding that he was willing to "die" from the trip.
“Your life is not less important than mine. Our lives are very important to the country and to your family,” said the commander-in-chief.
The President sought to empathize with the soldiers and boost troop morale two days after he asked Congress to extend martial law in Mindanao until December 31, 2017, or for another 5 months.
In his letter to Congress, he said this was necessary since the Marawi crisis will not likely be resolved by July 22, the day Proclamation 216 lapses.
Citing recommendations of the military and police, Duterte also said other armed groups in Mindanao continue to pose a threat to the region’s security.
The Marawi siege or the success of pro-ISIS fighters in occupying an entire Philippine city for an extended amount of time has reportedly inspired violence in other places in Southeast Asia, according to a report of Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) released on Friday, July 21. (READ: Marawi inspired, strengthened pro-ISIS fighters in region) – Rappler.com