Duterte says nationwide martial law is 'on the table'

Audrey Morallo - Philstar.com
Duterte says nationwide martial law is 'on the table'

President Rodrigo Duterte witnesses the program proper during the Department of Labor and Employment 84th Anniversary Celebration at the Bulacan Capitol Gymnasium in Malolos City on December 8, 2017. Also in the photo are Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello III, and Bulacan Governor Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado. Rey Baniquet/Presidential Photo

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said that "all options are on the table" regarding the possible placement of the entire Philippines under martial law, just hours after Congress acceded to his request to extend military rule in Mindanao for another year.

Duterte said he was not discounting the possibility of a nationwide martial law if the existence of the republic was already threatened by lawless elements, rebels and militants.

"At this time? All options are on the table. All options are on the table. There's only one rationale there: the existence of the Republic of the Philippines," the president said in a media briefing following the destruction of arms used in the siege of Marawi City which prompted the chief executive to place Mindanao under military rule.

"You threaten the existence of the Republic of the Philippines I am sure everybody will react and do what he must do to prevent it," he said.

READ: Lorenzana: Rebellion still active elsewhere in Mindanao

The president's pronouncement came just after Congress, dominated by his allies, overwhelmingly voted to extend military rule in Mindanao for another year or until Dec. 31, 2018.

Lawmakers gave credence to Duterte's justification that terror groups, Islamist militants and communist rebels posed a threat to the region that warranted the continuation of military rule in the island of 22 million.

Mindanao has been under martial law since May 23 following an attempt by Islamic State-inspired fighters to take over Marawi and establish a province of the group there. The fighting was so intense that it forced residents to evacuate and destroyed many parts of the once-bustling town including mosques that used to dot its skyline.

The president said he would listen to the recommendation of the country's security agencies, but vowed to decisively address any threat that would compromise the republic.

READ: ‘Martial law not meant to defer barangay, local elections,’ DND chief says

He said that a nationwide martial law was dependent on the actions of what he called the "enemies of the state."

"If the NPAs say that they're recruiting in mass numbers, and they create trouble, and they are armed and about to destroy government, the government will not wait until the dying days of its existence," Duterte said.

"The government can always preempt and prevent that disaster. To what extent, what level of atrocities of attacks, it is not for me to say that. It's up for the Armed Forces and the police," he added.

READ: Kabataan rep: Martial law extension 'free pass for rights violations'

Duterte, however, refused to provide specific parameters that would guide his decision on declaring a nationwide martial law, saying that he would assess facts as they come in.

The president also shut down the possibility of the declaration of a holiday truce with communists, which traditionally was declared by past presidents to allow combatants to be with their families on Christmas day and New Year.

He said that the military advised him not to declare it this year as this could provide the Maoist militants an opportunity to gain ground and strengthen their forces.

"Unfortunately for the soldiers, they do not have that kind of luxury," he said. 

Duterte said there would be a rotation of soldiers to allow them to spend some time with their families during the holidays.

READ:  MAT: Martial law extension a danger to human rights, democracy

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