MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte has cited an alleged attempt by local terror groups to create an Islamic State wilayat (province) in Mindanao behind his declaration of martial law in the restive south.
In his report to the Senate, a requirement upon the declaration of martial law, Duterte said the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups currently laying siege to Marawi City have shown their “clear intention to establish an Islamic State” in Mindanao.
Apparently aided by foreign fighters, local terrorists besieged Marawi City on Tuesday as government troops attempted to arrest terror leader Isnilon Hapilon, who has reportedly been anointed by the Islamic State as its leader in Southeast Asia.
The terrorists took hostage several locals and burned structures in the city, displacing thousands of residents.
“These activities constitute not simply a display of force, but a clear attempt to establish the groups’ seat of power in Marawi City for their planned establishment of a Daesh wilayat or province covering the entire Mindanao,” Duterte said.
The report also said there was a need to implement martial law in Mindanao since “there exists no doubt that lawless armed groups are attempting to deprive the President of his power, authority, and prerogatives.”
The president said alliance-building activities among terrorist groups and their attempt to gain “absolute control over the entirety of Mindanao” necessitates the “swift and decisive” action of the government.
“While the government is presently conducting legitimate operations to address the on-going rebellion, if not the seeds of invasion, public safety necessitates the continued implementation of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao until such time that the rebellion is completely quelled,” Duterte said.
Duterte submitted his report to Congress on Thursday evening, complying with the Constitutional requirement that such be given to the legislature within 48 hours of the declaration of martial law.
The 1987 Constitution grants the President the power to declare martial law for not more than 60 days "in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it."
Solicitor General Jose Calida said the current terrorist rampage in Marawi City was a manifestation of these conditions.
“What’s happening in Mindanao is no longer a rebellion of Filipino citizens. It has transmogrified into invasion by foreign terrorists who heeded the clarion call of the ISIS to go to the Philippines if they find difficulty in going to Iraq or Syria,” Calida said.
“Given the above clear and present dangers and atrocities happening in Mindanao, specially in Marawi City, it is the President’s constitutional duty to unsheathe the Republic’s sword of martial law to crush the rebellion that threatens to divide our country.”
The military said at least 31 suspected terrorists have been killed since the clashes erupted Tuesday, 6 of whom were believed to be foreigners. Some of these fatalities include Indonesian and Malaysian nationals.