IF CONFLICT SPREADS TO VISAYAS
DAVAO CITY — President Rodrigo Duterte warned on Wednesday that he would suspend the writ of habeas corpus in the Visayas if the threat of terrorism extended beyond Mindanao.
Speaking during the 119th anniversary of the Philippine Navy at the Sasa port here, Mr. Duterte said the order would give security forces authority to make arrests and thwart terrorists from making a foothold in the central Philippines.
By suspending the writ of habeas corpus, state forces can make arrests without a warrant.
The President said the order, short of martial law, would be necessary as Visayas could be reached easily by sea from Mindanao in a matter of hours.
“That is just a precautionary measure. Don’t think it would happen. I hope it would not happen,” Duterte said.
The President reiterated what he said has been the “creeping menace” of Islamic State or IS extremism, calling Marawi City — where government forces have been battling IS-inspired Maute group gunmen — as a bedrock of illegal drugs fueling local terrorists.
Duterte warned that the IS-inspired terrorists wanted to “supplant our way of life.”
The President said the declaration of martial law in the entire Mindanao was “an implicit admission” that the present security threat could no longer be handled by police alone.
While the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) did not recommend martial law, Mr. Duterte said the military had given him sufficient information to declare martial law in Mindanao.
He assured the public he would lift the order upon receiving assurances from the military and the police that the security situation in the entire region has been stabilized.
The President’s pronouncement came barely a day after Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino revealed that extending martial law to the Visayas remains an option if there is any indication of an imminent threat to any part of its four regions.
In Cebu, Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7) director Chief Supt. Noli Taliño said they are also on guard against communist rebels amid the rising tension between the government and the leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army and their political wing, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP)/
Taliño said they are not only vigilant over possible terrorist spillover from Marawi City but also of NPA elements who might also sow terror in the Central Visayas region, particularly Cebu.
The alert came after a series of threats were allegedly delivered to the Philippine National Police (PNP), including a bomb scare at Camp Crame, the PNP’s national headquarters.
These threats indicate that the communist rebels plan to intensify operations against the government and the PNP is preparing to address these threats, said Taliño.
Taliño said they also received a similar bomb scare in Sagbayan Police Station in Sagbayan town in Bohol after the bomb scare in Camp Crame. But the information turned out negative, he added.
Taliño said they are not taking these information lightly since terrorism can strike anywhere, especially in highly urbanized areas.
“Dito nga sa atin sa Bohol nga may nakapasok na (They were even able to penetrate Bohol). So anywhere — highly urbanize cities, countries — (is a) target (of) terrorism,” he said.
Prior to alleged bomb scares and the Marawi siege, the police in the region are already in full alert, said Taliño.
PRO-7 also has not monitored any specific group that is in Central Visayas after the 11 members of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) entered Bohol last April 10.
All the ASG members in Bohol were killed in the series of police and military operations that lasted nearly a month.
“Lahat binabantayan natin ngayon kung may mga spillovers sa Mindanao sa nangyayari doon. Kaya naka-full alert pa rin tayo ang ating kapolisan at Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP),” Taliño said.
(We are monitoring everything even spillovers in Mindanao. We are still on full alert and our counterparts in AFP)