By Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star)
Photo: President Duterte peers through the scope of a sniper rifle as he led the inspection of firearms recovered by troops during his visit to the 4th Infantry Division advance command post in Butuan City the other day.
MANILA, Philippines - Despite his threat that he would no longer listen to anyone if he declares martial law for the second time, President Duterte’s readiness to pull out troops from Marawi City if the Supreme Court orders him to do so indicates his respect for the rule of law, Malacañang said yesterday.
Speaking to the media in Butuan City last Saturday, Duterte said he would withdraw military forces from Marawi if the SC will declare that his martial law declaration has no factual basis.
The President, however, warned that if violence erupts anew in Mindanao and he declares martial law again, he would do it his way and would no longer listen to anyone.
He said the martial law he would declare could even be a “copycat” of that of former president Ferdinand Marcos, who has been accused of condoning human rights violations and silencing his critics.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, however, made no mention of Duterte’s warning in the statement he issued yesterday, focusing only on the President’s willingness to pull out troops in Marawi.
“The President’s media interview (on June 17) after visiting the troops in Butuan underscores that he adheres to the rule of law and judicial independence,” Abella said.
“President Duterte made it clear that if the Supreme Court decides against the declaration of martial law, he would pull out the military in Marawi City on the ground that the high court does not believe there is a rebellion,” he added.
Abella reiterated though that Duterte is ready to declare martial law if “public safety requires it.”
“The President likewise made it clear that if and when there is another similar incident of rebellion… the President and commander-in-chief would again declare martial law and (exercise) police power given to the executive by no less than our Constitution,” the Palace spokesman said.
Duterte placed the whole Mindanao under martial law last May 23 after Islamic State-inspired Maute terrorists attacked Marawi to protect Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon from government forces.
Members of the opposition and some non-government organizations have challenged the martial law declaration before the SC, believing there is no sufficient basis to place the entire island under military rule.
The military claimed that the number of Maute terrorists is dwindling but officials could not say when martial law would be lifted. Duterte has said the martial law declaration would not be lifted until the fighting in Marawi stops.
Duterte maintained that the Maute terrorists have committed rebellion with the help of drug syndicates and warlords. He has also assailed those who question his claim that Mindanao is plagued with rebellion.
“What do you think? What do you want? That they devour half of Mindanao before we can call if a true blue rebellion?” he said last Saturday.
“They think the government is not doing anything right. Everything that we do is wrong and most of the time, they are the crybabies,” he added.
Asked when he would lift martial law, Duterte said: “Hindi matatapos ang martial law hanggang hindi natatapos ang putukan (Martial law won’t be lifted until the fighting is over).”