Philippine President Duterte threatens to extend scope of martial law

President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday he wouldn't rule out placing the entire country under martial law to prevent Daesh-linked militants from gaining a foothold in the Christian-majority Philippines.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte salutes the honor guards upon arrival from Russia at the Ninoy Aquino International airport in Paranaque, Metro Manila, Philippines, May 24, 2017.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law on his native island of Mindanao on Tuesday, vowing his determination on fighting against groups like the allegedly Daesh-linked "Maute Group."

Duterte, speaking at Manila International Airport on Wednesday after he cut short his official visit to Russia, said that he is considering expanding the scope of martial rule to the nearby Visayas region and even the entire country, including the main Luzon island, to prevent the group from fleeing to other nearby islands and holding some other "terroristic activity."

"I may decide to expand the area to include the Visayas because it is just a walking distance actually. And because of the many islands, they can always escape there and begin another terroristic activity. I have ordered the military, specially the Navy to embargo the islands, specially the sea that separates Mindanao from the Visayas," said Duterte.

TRT World’s Soraya Lennie explains security measures taken by the Philippines.

Duterte declared martial law for 60 days on Tuesday on the island of Mindanao and nearby island provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.

"By virtue of the powers vested in me by the constitution and by law, I have to declare martial law in the Mindanao group of islands for a period not exceeding 60 days effective as of May 23, 2017," said Duterte.

It came after clashes between the army and members with alleged links to Daesh in Marawi, the provincial city of Lanao del Sur on the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines.

"I have always said do not force my hand into it because if I start to declare martial law, I will solve all the problems of Mindanao connected with law and order," said Duterte.

After the clash broke out in Marawi, Duterte held an emergency meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday night, and then terminated his visit and returned to Manila.

Putin also showed his support on Duterte’s decision during their meeting.

Duterte added the 60-day valid time of martial law would be probably prolonged until the Philippines regained a secure environment.

He said that he will hold a cabinet meeting to discuss further steps to handle the situation in Marawi and how to ensure people’s safety.

He also addressed tighter control on private guns and suggested people carry their ID cards when going outside in case of necessary checks.

The Philippine military sector said that five army soldiers and two police officers have so far been killed and 31 soldiers were wounded in the ongoing sporadic fighting; 13 Maute members have also been killed.

The government said thousands of Marawi residents have fled to avoid the conflict.

The Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups have both pledged allegiance to Daesh.

TRTWorld, Reuters