Duterte declares Martial Law in Mindanao, cuts short Russia trip

 MOSCOW, Russia

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has declared Martial Law in Mindanao following the violence happening in Marawi City.

The declaration was announced by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella in a press briefing here on Tuesday, May 23.

“The President has called me and asked me to announce that as of 10 p.m. Manila time, he has already declared Martial Law for the entire island of Mindanao,” Abella told the media delegation who accompanied the President in his official visit to Russia.

“SDES Guevarra has clarified that this was possible on the grounds of existence of rebellion because of what is happening in Mindanao based on Article 7, Section 18 of the Constitution. This is good for 60 days,” he added.

Due to the situation in Marawi City, the President also has decided to cut short his official trip in Russia.

The President is supposed to stay in Moscow until the 26th of May.

“The President feels that he is needed in Manila as soon as possible,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said.

He said the security of the Filipino people especially in Marawi and the whole Mindanao is a priority, hence, the decision of the President to be physically present in the Philippines.

Cayetano said he will be staying in Moscow to facilitate the signing of agreements between the Philippines and Russia.

“The agreements will be signed and we will have a bilateral meeting with the Honorable Minister of Foreign Affairs (Sergey) Lavrov,” he said.

Detailing what happened in Marawi City, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said at 2 p.m. (Manila time), the joint elements of the Army and the Police were trying to serve a warrant of arrest on Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon in Barangay Basak Malutlut in Marawi City when they were met with firefight by the group of Hapilon. Hapilon has pledged allegiance to the terrorist group ISIS.

Lorenzana said the authorities had a lack of “appreciation of intelligence” not knowing that Hapilon was backed by more or less 100 armed fighters from the Maute group, which the President earlier revealed as being connected to ISIS.

He noted that the group was able to occupy some establishments in Marawi City.

“They occupied the Amai Pakpak Hospital, this is a hospital under the DOH, the City Hall, City Jail and part of the MSU compound,” the Defense chief said.

He added that the group burned several facilities such as the St. Mary’s Church, the City Jail, the Ninoy Aquino School, and the Dansalan College.

According to Lorenzana, the Maute fighters also have occupied the main street of Marawi City called the Quezon Street and two bridges leading to the city.

“As of tonight, there were three killed government troops, one PNP and two Army and 12 wounded,” he said.

“The whole of Marawi City is blackout, there is no light and there are snipers, Maute snipers all around. So the troops are still on holding and several troops elements have already joined them from other neighboring units. And tomorrow morning we are bringing in more troops from Zamboanga and Manila,” he added.

He then advised civilians to stay in their homes and wait for instructions to evacuate them, if necessary, as government will provide transportation in case house-to-house fighting erupts.

Lorenzana assured that the situation in Marawi City is under control and the Philippines will be able to solve it without the help of other countries.

As a final note, Abella appealed to the people of Marawi to take all precaution, cooperate with authorities, and stay calm.###PND