The violence in Marawi city erupted Tuesday after the army raided the hideout of Isnilon Hapilon, a commander of the Abu Sayyaf militant group who has pledged allegiance to ISIS. He is on Washington’s list of most-wanted terrorists with a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture. The militants called for reinforcements and around 100 gunmen entered Marawi, a mostly Muslim city of 200,000 people on the southern island of Mindanao, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.
“We are in a state of emergency,” Duterte said Wednesday after he cut short a trip to Moscow and flew back to Manila. “I have a serious problem in Mindanao and the ISIS footprints are everywhere.” He declared martial rule for 60 days in the entire Mindanao region — home to 22 million people — and vowed to be “harsh.”
“If I think that you should die, you will die,” he said. “If you fight us, you will die. If there is open defiance, you will die. And if it means many people dying, so be it.”
“Checkpoints will be allowed. Searches will be allowed. Arrest without a warrant will be allowed in Mindanao, and I do not need to secure any search warrant or a warrant of arrest. If you are identified positively on the other side, you can be arrested and detained.”
“Anyone now holding a gun, confronting government with violence, my orders are spare no one, let us solve the problems of Mindanao once and for all. Do not force my hands into it,” he added.
Duterte added that he was mulling an order to allow civilians to use their legally purchased guns against Maute terrorists and carry them publicly to deter violence. He added the rare warning that he would not allow police to abuse human rights with impunity.
“I will assure you I am not willing to allow abuses. Government is still running, the Congress is functioning, and the courts are open for citizens to seek grievance,” he assured residents.
ISIS-linked militants swept through a southern Philippine city, beheading a police chief, burning buildings, seizing a Catholic priest and his worshipers and raising the black flag of the group. As details of the attack in Marawi city emerged, fears mounted that the largest Roman Catholic nation in Asia could be falling into a growing list of countries grappling with the spread of influence from ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
For months, Duterte has warned that the collapse of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq would present a danger to the Philippines. “Once the terrorists of the Middle East are deprived of the land area, the real estate area where they can sleep,” Duterte warned in November 2016, “they will wander to other places and they will come here and we have to prepare for that.”
Should ISIS surface in the Philippines, Duterte said then, “forget about human rights.”
“I will not just simply allow my people to be slaughtered for the sake of human rights; that’s bullshit,” he added.