MANILA, Philippines – The imposition of martial law in Mindanao may continue even after government troops take full control of Marawi City ahead of the 60-day period of military rule, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said on Wednesday, May 31.
AFP spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said in a news briefing on Wednesday that the military will use the full 60-day duration of martial law to quell threats in other parts of Mindanao, not just in Marawi City where it is fighting the Maute Group.
"What we are doing now is to focus on Marawi because that's where the conflict erupted. But threats in other areas are yet to be addressed. These areas may have supporting structures, sympathizers, and the like," Padilla said.
"So the time given to us, we will use it to address these other issues," he added.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, martial law administrator, had said that the clashes in Marawi are likely to end by the first week of June, ahead of the 60-day maximum period for martial law stated in the Constitution. Any extension for martial law requires the approval of Congress.
Other Mindanao threats
Padilla said it's also possible for the military to recommend to Duterte the extension of martial law if it determines that other security threats in Mindanao have not been sufficiently quelled.
"If, in the event that in 60 days we still need the suspension of the writ or the privilege of the writ, then we can recommend it because we need to address and look after the security situation in other parts," said Padilla.
He emphasized, however, that only Duterte and Congress can decide to extend martial law.
"The decision to keep martial law remains to be in the hands of political leaders. It's not with us. We only make recommendations," said the military spokesman.
Padilla said the military will consider Mindanao threats sufficiently addressed if "our ground commanders have made an assessment that [terror groups] no longer exist or are [downgraded] to a level that they will not pose any serious threat to the area."
He has also said he intends to use martial law to "end all ills" of Mindanao. Peace in the southern island, Duterte's home region, is among his biggest promises to Filipinos.
Lorenzana said in a statement that Duterte wants security forces to target "threats posed by ISIS-linked local and foreign terrorist groups whose network covers the entire Mindanao."
Different from Marcos
Padilla assured the public that the implementation of martial law under Duterte will be different from that of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, which was associated with human rights abuses by the military.
"Remember that the declaration of the President is very much different from the declaration of long ago. Right now, martial law is implemented not in the fashion of 1972, but in accordance with the spirit of the 1987 Constitution," said Padilla.
The 1987 Constitution, crafted after the ouster of Marcos, specifies that a state of martial law cannot override the functions of the judicial and legislative branches of government.
The 1987 Constitution also does not "authorize the conferment of jurisdiction on military courts and agencies over civilians where civil courts are able to function."
A state of martial law does not automatically suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.
Its suspension shall only apply to "persons judicially charged for rebellion or offenses inherent in or directly connected with the invasion."
During the suspension of the privilege of the writ, those arrested or detained shall be judicially charged within 3 days, or otherwise released. – 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.