MANILA (UPDATED) - President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said “all options are on the table” when asked whether he is inclined to declare martial law nationwide.
“All options are on the table. There’s only one na rationale there, the existence of the Republic of the Philippines. You threaten the existence of the Republic of the Philippines. I am sure that everybody will react and do what he must do to prevent it,” Duterte told reporters in a chance interview in Taguig City.
Duterte added that a decision to place the entire country under martial would also depend on the actions of the “enemies of the state,” such as the New People’s Army, which was recently declared by the government as a terrorist group.
He, however, said the ultimate decision rests on the military which he said is more knowledgeable of the situation on the ground.
“It is up to the enemies of the state. If sabi ng NPA that they are recruiting in mass numbers, and they create trouble and they are armed and about to destroy government… ano, ang gobyerno will not wait until the dying days of its existence,” he said.
“The government can always preempt and prevent that disaster. To what extent, what level of atrocities or attacks… it is not for me to say that – it is for the Armed Forces and the police.”
Critics earlier said that Congress approval of Duterte’s request to extend martial law in the entire Mindanao could be a prelude to a nationwide martial law.
Senate Minority Leader Frank Drilon asked why Duterte, in his letter to Congress seeking the extension, cited the terror threat posed by armed communist rebels, which has been existing for decades.
"Is this now a prelude to declaring martial law nationwide?" he said.
Senator Panfilo Lacson said while he supported the one-year extension of the martial law, he noted that clashes between state troops and communist rebels in areas outside Mindanao could prompt the declaration of martial law in Luzon and Visayas.
After 4 hours of deliberations on Wednesday, a total of 240 legislators voted to extend the military rule anew until the end of 2018 while 27 rejected the proposal.
Breaking down the voting numbers per house, the Senate tallied 14-4, while the House of Representatives ended up with 226-23.
Duterte placed Mindanao, home to 22 million people, under military rule after Islamic State sympathizers attacked Marawi last May 23. On his request after the lapse of the initial 60-day declaration, lawmakers extended martial law until December 31.
Over 1,100 people, mostly Islamic State-inspired terrorists, were killed in the siege, which also displaced over 300,000 residents from the city considered as the center of Islamic faith in Mindanao.
In his letter to Congress on Monday, Duterte cited a lingering terror threat in Mindanao as well as the armed insurgency of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) as reasons for seeking the extension of martial law until December 31, 2018.