MANILA, May 24 (Mabuhay) — The Department of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday said President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to declare Martial Law in Mindanao was “necessary” to suppress “lawless violence” and “rebellion.”
Duterte, who was on an official visit to Russia, made the declaration of Martial Law Tuesday night. Philippine security forces have placed Marawi City, the capital of Lanao del Sur Province, under siege to drive out the Maute terrorist group.
“In order to suppress lawless violence and rebellion and for public safety, it is necessary to declare Martial Law in the entire island of Mindanao including Sulu, Jolo and Tawi-Tawi for a maximum of 60 days,” the DFA said in a statement.
Fighting broke out after government troops attacked a hideout used by key Muslim extremist leader Isnilon Hapilon. Washington has a $5 million bounty for his capture.
“The Philippine Government is in full control, and fully aware that the Maute Group/ISIS groups have the capability (although limited) to disturb the peace; they have shown no hesitation in causing havoc, taking innocent lives and destroying property,” the DFA said.
United States embassy spokesperson Molly Koscina said the US is “aware of the reports regarding martial law in Mindanao and are following the situation.”
A small group of US military anti-terrorism advisers are still in Southern Mindanao.
The US and other western states have issued travel advisories on possible terrorist attacks in the Southern Philippines, including in the island of Palawan – a popular tourist destination – warning their citizens of kidnapping operations against foreign nationals.
Duterte previously threatened to impose martial law, but in the context of the campaign against illegal drugs. The bloody crackdown on prohibited drugs has left at least 7,000 drug suspects and civilians dead, sparking alarm in the international community and human rights groups. (MNS)