MANILA - (3RD UPDATE) Malacañang has ordered the deployment of additional troops to parts of the Philippines to suppress lawless violence, citing a “number of sporadic acts of violence” occurring recently.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, by order of President Rodrigo Duterte, signed Memorandum Order No. 32 calling for the deployment of additional police and military forces in Samar, Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental, and the Bicol Region.
Government troops are also ordered to “prevent such violence from spreading and escalating elsewhere in the country.”
The memorandum cited a spate of violence in the said regions “which appear to have been committed by lawless groups.”
Thus, it said there is a need to reinforce the directive of the President to suppress lawless violence “to prevent further loss of innocent lives and destruction of property and bring the whole country back to a state of complete normalcy as quick as possible.”
The military said it supports the President's decision but did not elaborate on its deployment.
"We are going to support this move of the political leadership," Brig. General Edgard Arevalo, military spokesperson, said Friday.
"If you are going to ask us, ilang batalyon, saan ipapadala, we cannot give you a definite answer yet," he added.
(If you are going to ask us how many battalions and where will they be deployed, we cannot give you a definite answer yet.)
The government in 2016 declared a state of national emergency on account of lawless violence in Mindanao and called out the military and police to undertake all necessary measures to suppress any and all forms of lawless violence in Mindanao and prevent its spread elsewhere in the country.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, who is also Duterte's chief legal counsel, said the president will order the implementation of the same directive in other parts of the country "only when reports of acts of violence reaches."
"If there is none, we should not be concerned. If there are acts of violence, acts of terror in any other areas then certainly, it will have to be implemented," he told ANC's Dateline Philippines.
Under the memorandum, the military, police, and the Department of Justice, in close coordination with other law enforcement agencies, shall intensify their local and transnational intelligence operations against individuals or groups suspected of, or responsible for, committing or conspiring to commit lawless violence in the country.
The memorandum also underscored that no civil or political rights are suspended during the existence of a state of national emergency on account of lawless violence.
“In particular, the AFP and PNP are enjoined to observe existing rules and jurisprudence in instances that may justify the implementation of warrantless arrests, searches and seizures, as well as ensure compliance with guidelines for police/military checkpoints and stop-and-frisk situation,” the memorandum reads.
“Any AFP or PNP personnel found violating any of the foregoing constitutional rights shall be held administratively, civilly or criminally liable therefore.”
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR), on its part, has called on Malacañang to address instead the root causes of violence, such as land issues and the plight of farmers, than deploying more troops.
"We call on the government to address these problems instead of simply increasing the presence of security forces, which may escalate tension and fuel fear in the community," CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said in a statement.
She added, "We urge the government to pursue development solutions rather than military approach to truly address the long standing problems that impact the basic rights and dignity of the people." - with a report from Jorge Cariño, ABS-CBN News