“But if you confront government with violence, my orders are shoot to kill”
By Cielito M. Reganit
President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday, May 24, assured the public that he will not allow abuses in the implementation of martial law in Mindanao amid concerns raised on the possibility of human rights abuses similar to those perpetrated during the Marcos era.
The President made the assurance in a press briefing shortly upon arriving at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport from a shortened official visit to Russia.
“I will assure you I am not willing to allow abuses. Government is still running, the Congress is functioning, and the courts are open for citizens to seek grievance,” Duterte stressed.
He also assured the public that in all decisions and actions, the primordial concern is the safety and welfare of the people.
“It is our Constitutional mandate to enforce the law and provide security. It is our Constitutional duty to ensure that every family, every community, all Filipinos, are assured to live in peace and harmony. We will stay true to our mandate and duty, this I can assure everyone,” Duterte said.
The President cut short his visit to Moscow after declaring martial law in Mindanao following violent clashes between government troops and the Maute Group in Marawi City on Tuesday.
The clashes erupted after security forces raided the hideout of Isnilon Hapilon, an Abu Sayyaf leader who has been tagged as the head of the Islamic-inspired terror group in the Philippines.
Duterte said the series of terror acts committed by the Maute group, which included the taking over and burning of several government facilities, establishing checkpoints within the city and flying the flag terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), constituted the crime of rebellion.
The acts committed by the terrorist group also resulted in the loss of lives of government forces as well as the displacement of innocent civilians.
“These things government cannot allow. It is an open defiance and the violence, the atrocities continue. Government must put an end to this. I cannot gamble with ISIS because they are everywhere. And, you know what is happening or you must be very aware of what happened in the Middle East,” the President said.
With the declaration of martial law, the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is likewise suspended in the entire Mindanao island, including the provinces of Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and Sulu.
“Checkpoints will be allowed; searches will be allowed; arrest without a warrant will be allowed in Mindanao. And I do not need to secure any search warrant or a warrant of arrest,” Duterte said.
However, the President said that law-abiding citizens have nothing to worry about the imposition of martial law.
“Remember that this is not intended for the law-abiding citizens. We are the least of your worry,” he said.
“But if you confront government, and my orders are one: to enforce the law. And anyone caught possessing a gun and confronting us with violence, my orders are shoot to kill,” he said.
“I said, I will not allow abuses. The courts are open. But anyone now holding a gun, confronting government with violence, my orders are spare no one. Let us solve the problem of Mindanao once and for all,” Duterte said.
The President likewise said that he may consider expanding the areas covered by martial law to include the Visayas.
“Government may consider the covered areas of Martial Law in the event that members of the Maute group and other ISIS affiliated terrorists seek sanctuary or expand their terroristic activities in the Visayas and Mindanao.” he said. (PNA)