MANILA (UPDATED) – A lawmaker on Saturday questioned an operational directive by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) which includes situations beyond those set by the Constitution for the declaration of martial law.
ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio on Saturday grilled AFP Chief of Staff Eduardo Año, the government’s martial law administrator, regarding Operational Directive 02-2017.
This, Año said, is the directive followed by government troops since martial law in Mindanao came into effect on May 23.
The document's purpose, he said, is to direct troops in destroying local terrorist groups in Mindanao.
The document, Tinio said, contained a definition of martial law that laid out guidelines he described to be "blatantly unconstitutional." He said it seemed to be the only government document that defined martial law outside of the Constitution.
According to the directive, martial law is imposed temporarily “when the government or civilian authorities fail to function effectively, or when there is near-violent unrest or in case of major natural disasters, or during conflicts or cases of occupation where the absence of any other civil governments provides for the unstable population.”
Tinio questioned this, reiterating that the Constitution only provides for the declaration of martial law to “prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it."
Año was unable to issue a reply, as Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III asked Tinio to end his interpellation, as his time had run out. Pimentel had earlier issued repetitive reminders on Tinio on the four-minute limit to interpellate.
Later during the session, Gabriela Party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas questioned Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana on the constitutionality of citing the possible movement of terrorists to other areas in justifying the extension of martial law.
However, Lorenzana reiterated his and his fellow officials’ assurances that the military would not take over civil governments in areas under martial law, as they are not prepared to do so.
“Hindi namin gustong mag-take over. Hindi rin kami prepared. Theoretically, puwede, pero I don't think we have [taken over] (We don’t want to take over. We are not prepared. Theoretically we could, but I don’t think we have),” he said.
Fighting erupted between state forces and Islamic State-linked terrorists in Marawi City on May 23, leaving at least 571 dead and roughly 300,000 displaced from the conflict zone and nearby areas.
The same day, President Rodrigo Duterte declared a state of martial law and suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao allowing warrantless arrests.
On Friday, Duterte said the fighting may soon be over. National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. meanwhile said the combat zone in Marawi City is now limited within three villages.