President Rodrigo Duterte gives a message as he graces the Christmas Party of the Presidential Security Group in Davao City on December 15, 2017. Kiwi Bulaclac/Presidential Photo

Palace says nationwide martial law an option despite diminished Maute
Alexis Romero (philstar.com) - December 17, 2017 - 9:50am
MANILA, Philippines — The presence of the Maute group and its allies in Marawi is no longer that strong, Malacañang said Sunday, even as it stressed that it is “open to all options,” including a nationwide martial law, to ensure public safety.
 
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said no one could predict the next moves of the terrorists, who are reportedly regrouping and recruiting new members.
 
“We in the government are open to all options. If something happens, we will apply. Hindi naman natin inaasahan na ganoon kalaki iyong presence ng Maute at ng Daula Islamiya diyan sa Marawi (We do not expect the presence of the Maute and the Daulah Islamiyah in Marawi to be that huge). So once they attack, then the president (will) use his prerogative, his power to declare ng martial law,” Andanar told radio station dzMM.
 
“Now, anything can happen around the country. We cannot guess what will happen but it is possible since the elements from the Middle East, in Iraq, Mosul, in Aleppo, the war there has ended, they will go back here, especially the Filipinos they recruited,” he added.
 
 
Andanar said those who joined the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan and who aligned themselves with the group of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden became members of the Abu Sayyaf.
 
“So all options are open in a sense that if anything can happen, it is in the power of the President written in the Constitution to protect every Filipino,” the cabinet official said.
 
President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao after Islamic State-linked Maute terrorists laid siege to Marawi last May 23 and kidnapped several civilians. Congress voted to prolong the military rule until December 31 last July.
 
 
Last week, Congress, which is dominated by allies of the administration, granted Duterte’s request to extend martial law in Mindanao by one year. Duterte justified his request for an extension by citing the threats posed by the Maute group, Da’awatulIslamiyah Waliyatul Masriq, the Turaife group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, the Abu Sayyaf and the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the communist rebels.
 
Duterte has not ruled out the possibility of placing the entire country under martial law, saying such decision would depend on the activities of the “enemies of the state.” 
 
“It is up to the enemies of the state… if the NPA say they are creating in mass numbers, they create trouble and they are armed… and about to destroy its government,” he said in a press conference last December 13.
 
“The government will not wait until the dying days of its existence. The government can always prevent that disaster… to what extent, level of atrocities or attacks, it is not for me to say… but the armed forces or the police,” he added.
 
 
The political opposition and activists are worried that the extension of martial law in Mindanao may lead to human rights abuses and the crackdown of groups critical of the government.
 
They also condemned what they described as “creeping dictatorship” under Duterte and maintained that there is no basis to extend the military rule because Marawi has been liberated from terrorists.

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