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AFP to 'exercise right to censure' under martial law

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday, May 26, reminded the public to "exercise common sense" when posting on social media as it implements martial law in the whole of Mindanao.

"Kaya ngayon umaapela kami maaga pa lang na i-exercise 'nyo ang common sense, na 'pag alam ninyo na ito'y nakakasama at hindi nakakatulong, 'wag 'nyo na ho i-post. Baka minsan na lang, kakatukin na lang kayo ng pulis at aarestuhin kayo," AFP spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said in a chance interview with reporters.

(This early, we're appealing to the public to exercise their common sense. If you know that what you're posting does harm and does not help, don't post it. You might just find the police knocking on your door to arrest you.)

In a news briefing with Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella and Solicitor General Jose Calida, Padilla called for the "full cooperation" of the public in the military's enforcement of martial law in Mindanao, and cited the AFP's "right to censure" to protect national security.

"The AFP has not recommended the suspension of the freedom of expression, but will exercise the right to censure," said Padilla, the designated spokesperson of the implementation of martial law in Mindanao.

Padilla cited the following instances where they will exercise their right to censure:

When asked, Padilla said it "will cover social media."

"[This is] because of the things we have been seeing in the operational environment. You yourself have seen that tremendous disinformation clouds or creates a thick fog of war that does not provide a better operational picture of the battlefield, and this is one that creates a lot of collateral damage which we want to avoid," he explained.

The specific right to censure guidelines have yet to be released, however. Padilla said separate sets of guidelines will be released for the general public and the media.

'Nothing to fear'

Amid fears of abuse during military rule in Mindanao, Padilla repeatedly assured the public that law-abiding citizens have nothing to fear, especially as the AFP today is different from the AFP of the past, referring to the military that implemented martial rule under the Marcos regime.

"The greater interest of the public is at the heart of the implementation of martial law and the Armed Forces will clearly go by all the guidelines that will be issued," he said.

Padilla cited the Department of National Defense guidelines to the AFP  "where emphasis has been placed on upholding the rule of law and to abide and uphold established laws pertaining to human rights."

Following an attempt by the terrorist Maute Group to take over the city of Marawi, President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire Mindanao island region under martial law.

The President also suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

This means the military takes over certain local government and police matters because they are unable to respond to public safety threats in the area.

The suspension of the writ also means police and military cannot be compelled to produce the body of those under detention. (READ: Questions you need to ask about martial law)

Martial law over Mindanao will be administered by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. AFP chief General Eduardo Año, whom Duterte said would be its administrator, is its implementor.

Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa, who is outside of the military structure, will be working alongside Año. 

Under the Constitution, martial law may only be in place for a maximum of 60 days, and may be extended only upon the approval of Congress, which is dominated by Duterte's allies. –