(UPDATED) President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao Tuesday night, May 23, after a clash erupted between government forces and members of Maute terror group in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella, in a press conference in Moscow, Russia, announced that the Chief Executive called him to disseminate to the public his decision to declare martial law in the entire beleagured region.
“The President has called me and asked me to announce that as of 10 p.m., Manila time, he has already declared martial law to the entire island of Mindanao,” Abella said.
The government troops are conducting ongoing operations against members of Abu Sayyaf and Maute group who were reported roving Marawi City.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who joined Abella in a press briefing, said two soldiers and one policeman were reported killed during the firefight while 12 others sustained injuries, as of 11:50 p.m. Tuesday.
Abella said the declaration of one-man rule in Mindanao will last for 60 days.
“This was possible on the grounds of the existence of rebellion because of what is happening in Mindanao. Based on Article 7, Section 18 of the Constitution. It is as good for 60 days,” he added.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Duterte will be cutting short his trip to Russia, stressing that the Chief Executive feels “that he is needed in Manila as soon as possible.”
“The physical presence of the President is needed in the Philippines. That is the President’s assessment. And his priority is always the protection and of each of every Filipino,” he added.
Lorenzana also confirmed that Maute bandits began occupying some establishments in the city like Amai Pakpak Medical Center, the City Hall, and the city jail.
He also verified that the church, city jail, Ninoy Aquino School and Dansalan College have been set on fire by the group.
“As of tonight (Tuesday, May 23), the Maute group burned several facilities – the church, city jail, the Ninoy Aquino School and the Dansalan College. The Maute fighters still occupy also the main street of Marawi City called the Quezon Street and two bridges,” Lorenzana said.
“Now, no civilians are roaming around; they are only in their houses. There are several houses that were also burned surrounding the other facilities that were burned. That is all that we can give you as the moment,” he added.
Abella said Duterte made the pronouncement after meeting his group of advisers in Russia to discuss the current situation in Marawi City.
Cayetano also assured that the security of Filipino people, especially in Marawi and the whole Mindanao, “is a priority.”
Cayetano said the scheduled bilateral meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev will be postponed. He said Duterte will likely talk to the two Russian leaders through a phone call.
Article 7, Section 18 of the Constitution stated "in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, the President may, for a period not exceeding 60 days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law."
Upon the initiative of the President, the Congress may, in the same manner, extend the proclamation for a period to be determined by the Congress, if the invasion persists and public safety requires it.
The Congress, if not in session, shall convene in accordance with the rules within 24 hours after the proclamation. (SunStar Philippines)