MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte was not referring to abuses when he made a remark about declaring a martial law that is a “copycat of Marcos,” officials clarified Monday.
Duterte has vowed to pull out military troops in Marawi City if the Supreme Court decides that his martial law declaration in Mindanao has no factual basis. None of the petitions on martial law at the Supreme Court argue that security forces should not be deployed against the Maute local terror group that controls part of the city.
The president, however, warned that he would no longer listen to anyone if Mindanao is plagued anew with violence that would require him to declare martial law for the second time.
According to the president, the next martial law he would declare could be a “copycat” of that of ousted President Ferdinand Marcos, the late dictator who placed the entire country under military rule in 1972.
Human rights groups claimed that Marcos used martial law to perpetuate himself in power, suppress the opposition and curtail civil liberties. The government has started paying reparations to human rights abuse victims during the Marcos years.
“Copycat,” as commonly used, means “one who imitates or adopts the behavior or practices of another.” Duterte has previously praised Marcos’ martial law as “very good.”
Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman, said Duterte was just referring to the “breadth and depth” of martial law when he made the “Marcos copycat” remark.
“Well, definitely the president will not be referring to abuses. He may refer to the breadth and the depth of how to impose it but I guess it’s not because of the abuses,” Padilla said in a press briefing in Malacañang.
“You can see how the military is implementing martial law now, its complete regard for human rights and IHL (International Humanitarian Law) and the other protocols that have been established,” he added.
Padilla said the military would respond to any complaint related to martial law, which was declared in Mindanao on May 23 after Maute terrorists raided Marawi City.
“That is also one of the instructions of the president previously that you also may have heard that he must ensure we are able to protect and save lives,” Padilla said.
“After all, in the pronouncement and declaration of martial law, he said ‘if you are a law-abiding citizen, and a peace-loving citizen, martial law is not a problem that you should not worry about because martial law is intended for the lawless elements and the rebels,'” he added.
Padilla claimed that the banter between Duterte and the media in Butuan City last Saturday – the time he made the ‘Marcos copycat’ comment – was “light” so the President could not have referred to abuses.
“He (Duterte) may have been very serious about tackling and dealing with the problems at hand and one of the solutions could be martial law but not in the extent of the abuses. And we can be sure of that because of the previous guidance that he has already given,” Padilla said.
Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte stressed that public safety was the primary consideration for declaring martial law.
Duterte’s martial law proclamation has been challenged before the Supreme Court by members of the opposition and civil society groups who believe that the declaration has no sufficient basis. Petitioners, however, are not Maute supporters, as some on social media have been falsely asserting.
When asked to clarify Duterte’s statement that he would no longer listen to anyone if he declares martial law for the second time, Abella said: “He doesn’t mean to say he will not go by the force of law. He will still do that.”
When pressed if Duterte would still listen to the courts in the event that he needs to declare martial law again, the presidential spokesman replied: “At the end of the day, yes. On the other hand, he will still have to exercise his own judgments.”
Padilla said the operations against terrorists would continue even if the Supreme Court rules against martial law.
“Offensives will continue because there’s a threat that’s being faced. And it would be foolhardy to stop the fight because the martial law was lifted,” he said.
“So if there’s a threat to public safety, it will continue. But the fight becomes increasingly hard because you cannot effect certain moves that will facilitate the taking care of some threats that area looming somewhere.”
Padilla said lifting martial law would involve the turning over of law enforcement to civilian authorities like the police and the local government.
A total of 257 Maute terrorists, 62 government troopers and 26 civilians have died since fighting erupted last May 23.
More than 320,000 people or about 66,000 families have been displaced because of the Marawi crisis.
The military has opened special accounts at Land Bank of the Philippines to gather financial assistance for communities affected by the conflict.
Those who want to donate to families of slain soldiers may deposit cash to the account name
AFP Marawi Casualty with the account number 00000552107128.
Donors may provide assistance to the evacuees by depositing cash to account name Marawi IDP with the account number 00000552107136.
Donors may call or send a text message to Lcdr. Rose Abud at mobile number +639282643337 to inform the military of deposits made.