WATCH | Duterte open to extending, expanding martial law

June 29, 2017 - 9:11 AM
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President Rodrigo Duterte looks through the sight of one of the rifles donated by China. (image from News5 video)

CLARK FREEPORT — President Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday he might move to extend martial law in Mindanao beyond 60 days if the Marawi crisis drags on and even expand it to the Visayas “if there is a spillover” of the violence in the south.

“For as long as they say it is not safe for anybody and everybody then martial law will continue to exist in Marawi, maybe in some parts of the Visayas if there is a spillover,” Duterte said at Clark Freeport, where he personally received a P590-million shipment of firearms from China, “urgent military assistance” for the government’s efforts to retake Marawi from extremist gunmen who have been battling security forces since May 23.

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The fighting broke out as Duterte was visiting Russia and prompted him to declare martial law over the whole of Mindanao. At the time, he also broached the possibility of expanding its coverage to the Visayas and even the whole country.

Early in the crisis, security officials and Duterte himself predicted the crisis would be over in days but the violence has since intensified, with the death toll now over 400 and air strikes playing a prominent component of military operations over the past weeks.

Duterte also said he is likely to drop out of sight more often, claiming his recent bouts of absence, which had triggered speculation about his health, was because of daily morale-boosting visits to military camps and “secret” activities.

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“You will see less of me until the Marawi incident is over,” Duterte said.

Explaining his recent absences, he said, “nandu’n ako sa mga kampo … everyday lumilipad ako ng kampo talaga (I am at the camps … I really fly to the camps everyday) just to raise the morale.”

Besides this, he added, “I also need to keep some activities secret, may mga lakad ako na ‘di ninyo dapat malaman (there are trips that you really shouldn’t know about).”

Pagkatapos na siguro (Maybe after this), when I’m through with this job then I’ll tell you … but there are things that I have to do that is not good for everybody to know,” he added.

Duterte said the arms shipment from China was intended “not only to strengthen our commitment to support each other but also highlights the dawn of the new era of Philippine-Chinese relations.”

The weapons and ammunition were ferried in two Ilyushin IL-760 cargo aircraft that landed at the 600th Air Base Wing in Clark.