Cayetano to diplomats: 'No abuses' under martial law

MANILA, Philippines – Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano assured the diplomatic corps on Tuesday, May 30, there will be "no abuses" as President Rodrigo Duterte implements martial law in Mindanao.

"May I assure you that the President and the government remain steadfast in the commitment to uphold the Philippine Constitution and ensure that efforts to enforce peace and order are done with due regard to the laws and preservation of our people's constitutional rights – in other words, no abuses," Cayetano said in his first briefing for the diplomatic corps about martial law. 

Cayetano, who was Duterte's running mate in the 2016 elections, also quoted the President as saying of martial law: "I am not willing to allow abuses. Government still running. Congress is functioning. The courts are open for citizens to seek their grievance."

Cayetano held the briefing nearly a week after Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao due to government clashes with the Maute Group and threats from the terrorist Islamic State (ISIS).

DFA spokesman Robespierre Bolivar said 97 diplomats from 63 embassies and international organizations were expected to attend the briefing. 

The event was held at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in Pasay City, and was attended by diplomats such as Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev, Australian Ambassador Amanda Gorely, and US Deputy Chief of Mission Michael Klecheski. 

Martial law 'a necessity'

In his briefing for diplomats on Tuesday, Cayetano said: "Whatever you sow, you will reap. We believe that if you sow injustice, crime, illegal drugs or narcotics, then you will reap disorder or, in other words, there will be no order nor peace." 

"It was our hope that President Duterte would be able to institute the reforms needed by the country without declaring martial law in any part of the country. However due to actual rebellion, terrorism, and the presence of ISIS on Philippine soil, the declaration of martial law in Mindanao became a necessity," he said.

In an interview with reporters after the diplomatic briefing on Tuesday, Cayetano explained that it is "a tradition" for the DFA to brief the diplomatic corps in cases of "a state of emergency or martial law or any big announcement that will affect not only our citizens but also foreign nationals."

Cayetano said diplomats asked about the concerns of their nationals in relation to martial law. They also had questions such as why martial law was declared in the whole of Mindanao, and how long military rule will take. 

The DFA secretary said the Philippine government, in response, "focused on the facts on the ground and also on the legal framework."

"Many of these countries have had their own challenges with terror attacks, and some of these countries have had areas where terrorist groups have had bases or had some influence. So they do understand that in situations like this, what we're trying to avoid is what I call the domino effect," Cayetano said. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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