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DND to AFP: Uphold rule of law, human rights in Mindanao

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of National Defense (DND) ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to uphold the rule of law and human rights in Mindanao, following President Rodrigo Duterte's declaration of martial law for the entire island.

In a memorandum to AFP chief of staff General Eduardo Año dated Wednesday, May 24, the DND noted that the declaration of martial law "does not suspend the operation of the Constitution, nor supplement the functioning of the Philippine judicial and legislative assemblies."

Section 18, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution says that the 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. It also states that martial law lasts for only 60 days, and any extension must be approved by Congress. (READ: Martial Law 101: Things you should know)

Duterte's Proclamation No. 216, signed on Tuesday, May 23, both declared martial law and suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao. The proclamation was made following clashes between the military and Maute Group terrorists in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. (READ: FAST FACTS: What you should know about the Maute Group)

"[The] rule of law and human rights should prevail in the place or part of the Philippines where the martial law was declared and effective," said the DND in its memo to the AFP.

"Any arrest, search, and seizure executed or implemented in the area or place where martial law is effective, including the filing of charges, should comply with the Revised Rules of Court and applicable jurisprudence," it also said.

Below is a copy of the DND memo.

Duterte warned on Wednesday that he will be "harsh" in implementing martial law, which he said "will not be any different" from the military rule under the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos. The Marcos dictatorship had been marred by human rights abuses and corruption. (READ: Martial Law, the dark chapter in Philippine history)

Duterte also said he might expand martial law to include Luzon and the Visayas if the threat of the Islamic State (ISIS) persists. (READ: Maute Group waves ISIS black flag on Marawi streets)

Congress leaders have said it is unlikely that they will revoke Duterte's declaration of martial law for Mindanao. 

The 1987 Constitution highlights the role of other branches of government in the martial law declaration. The provisions are meant precisely to prevent grave abuse and stop another Marcos from tinkering with civil rights.

The Supreme Court may also review a martial law declaration following an "appropriate proceeding filed by any citizen." – Rappler.com