MANILA, Philippines – After the Supreme Court (SC) upheld his martial law declaration in Mindanao, President Rodrigo Duterte said he respects the various opinions of the justices on it.
"I would give due respect to the opinions, the dissenting ng – tulad ng (like the) questioning the martial law power of the President," said Duterte on Tuesday, July 4, during a visit to the wake of massacre victims in Bulacan.
The SC had voted 11-3-1 to uphold the constitutionality of Duterte's proclamation.
Of the 4 justices who voted to partially or totally grant petitions to declare Duterte's martial law proclamation unconstitutional, 3 said there was only sufficient basis to declare martial law in Marawi City and not the entire Mindanao while one justice said there was no sufficient basis to declare martial law at all.
Duterte addressed one concern of justices that there was not enough grounds to declare martial law in the entire Mindanao as the ongoing clashes between the Maute Group and government forces are confined to Marawi City.
The President said the lack of "divisions" means a spillover of violence is likely.
"It's very easy for them to escape because there is no division in terms of land, tuloy-tuloy (it's contiguous) and they can go and we can have a spillover," he said.
In his opinion, martial law should have been declared "a long time ago." (READ: Martial law in Mindanao: Duterte's warning fulfilled)
"They forget to remember that martial law should have been declared a long time ago. When? When Davao City was – airport was bombed, they failed to do their homework – then the Zamboanga siege, then the church of Davao, airport, even the port, even the terminal," said Duterte.
"I was telling you, I'm warning the nation, do not force my hand into it because if I were [to] declare martial law, tatapusin talaga natin ito (we will end this)," said Duterte.
Martial law will continue, he said, until the last terrorist in Marawi is weeded out.
"For as long as there is one terrorist there in Marawi, it will not end," he said. (READ: Duterte says martial law due to ISIS threat)
When asked if he would extend martial law, given the situation on the ground in Marawi City, Duterte repeated that he will listen to recommendations by security officials.
"Hindi naman ako surveyor eh (I'm not a surveyor). I do not go around getting the opinion of people if they are already safe or not, it [would be] the military and the police," said the President.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had said on Monday, July 3, that they will give their martial law recommendation "soon."
Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa also said on Tuesday that he and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Eduardo Año are "inclined to recommend" the extension of martial law, so far.
Martial law in Mindanao is on its 43rd day on Tuesday. Being valid for only 60 days, martial law is supposed to end by July 22. If Duterte decides to seek an extension, he must get congressional approval. (READ: Martial Law 101: Things you should know) – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.