MANILA - Military efforts to quell terrorism in Mindanao will continue even if President Rodrigo Duterte makes true his statement to pull out troops if the Supreme Court finds his declaration of martial law baseless, officials said Monday.
"The President has made his position clear: If necessary, he will [withdraw troops if the SC rules that there is no basis for declaring martial law], but efforts will continue," Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a press briefing in Malacañang.
Armed Forces spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said even if troops will be pulled out, "offensives will continue because there is a threat that is being faced and it will be foolhardy to stop the fight because the martial law is lifted."
Once martial law is lifted should such ruling is handed down by the High Court, Padilla said troops will "pull back a little bit from certain actions" and will turn over some of its responsibilities to the police or the local government units.
"There’s a threat to public safety, pero the fight becomes increasingly hard because you cannot effect certain moves that will facilitate taking care of some threats that are looming somewhere," he said.
"The course of time in effecting the arrest and possibly neutralizing a potential threat will become longer and opening up the possibility of escape, so they will keep on being at large and being a threat to public safety," he added.
Duterte on Saturday said he was ready to withdraw government troops in Marawi City if the high court ruled there was no factual basis for his martial law declaration in Mindanao, but "if anything goes wrong, mag-declare ulit ako ng martial law the second time around."
Philippine National Police Chief, Director General Ronald dela Rosa on Monday meanwhile told reporters that Duterte warning to pull out troops could be just "an act of frustration."
"Ang dami nating buhay na binuwis, ang dami na nating nasugatan na kasundaluhan at kapulisan dahil ngayon lang, i-give up natin yung siyudad ng Marawi na hindi pa natin fully na-recover," he said.