MANILA - Martial law is limited only to Mindanao, President Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday, in light of concerns he might declare military rule in Negros Island.
In a speech before newly-elected officials of the League of Cities of the Philippines and the Liga ng mga Barangay, Duterte assured Filipinos he would “never” declare martial law outside of the southern Philippines.
"Let's make it clear, I will not declare martial law except in Mindanao kasi kailangan (because it was necessary),” he said.
The President explained that his threat of taking “drastic action” in Negros Island, which has been marred by a spate of killings, meant filling the area with more soldiers.
“There will never be a time that I will declare martial law. What I said was that I will take drastic action…You do not go after innocent people. Martial law, you go after lawless elements so why do you have to declare it?” he said.
While it is true that there is rampant violence in Negros, the situation in the area does not meet the requirements for declaring military rule, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Tuesday.
Duterte placed the entire island of Mindanao under martial law in May 2017 after Islamic State-inspired terrorists attacked and held the Islamic City of Marawi.
The original martial law declaration was supposed to last only for 60 days, as indicated in the Constitution, but Congress voted to extend it until the end of 2017 to help troops end the siege.
Military rule in Mindanao has since been extended twice, with the latest until the end of 2019, to quell terror groups that "continue to defy the government."
Duterte also teased that he “might declare another thing” but “it’s up to you to guess what will it be.”