PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte told Congress on Thursday they must understand his position if he needs to extend martial law.
Responding to criticisms by opposition lawmakers that defense officials had not recommended he declare martial law, Duterte said he would listen to his Armed Forces and the police on when to lift military rule.
“With more reason today, I will ask the military and the police, ‘Are we okay? Because if we are, then let’s lift it immediately,’” Duterte said in a speech before newly appointed officials at Malacañang.
“But for as long as the military says, ‘Sir, hindi pa talaga kaya. [We still can’t do it.’] And it’s beyond 60 days, Congress must understand that I may need more time,” he said.
Duterte, who reiterated that drug money is fueling terror activities in the south, said there was a need to wipe out extremists seeking to establish a province of the Islamic State in the Philippines.
“The rebellion in Mindanao, it’s not Maute. It’s purely ISIS with a different branch,” the President said. “And I said by the time that they are pushed back and they lose the land mass, they will scamper everywhere.”
“When I say wipe them out, better [do it]. If you shoot him in the head, shoot him again in the heart to be sure,” he said.
He also said extremist groups were also involved in the drug trade in international waters.
Still, Duterte said he wants to end martial law in Mindanao as soon as possible.
“I am one of those hurrying it up. The earlier we attain the equanimity of the community, the stability, I’d be the first to clamor for the lifting of martial law,” Duterte said.
The President likewise hit back at critics who said he did not consult defense and security officials when he declared martial law.
“They say I did not consult the military. You know, you can hardly talk to fools and those who are stupid. They will never understand. You do not declare martial law without asking the soldiers and policemen,” Duterte said.
Former senator Rene Saguisag, meanwhile, taunted members of Congress for not objecting to the declaration of martial law.
Speaking to reporters after attending the necrological services for former senator Eva Estrada-Kalaw, Saguisag noted there are more echoes rather than voices under the Duterte administration.
“Only a few voices, especially in the House,” said Saguisag, a human rights lawyer who was jailed at the height of military rule under the late President Ferdinand Marcos.
Former Senate president Aquilino Pimentel Jr., meanwhile, contradicted his son, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, who said there was no compelling reason to call a joint session of Congress to discuss Duterte’s martial law declaration.
Congress, the older Pimentel said, should hold a joint session even if there is no intention to revoke or extend military rule.
“In other words, do their function to report to the people because they are the representatives of the people,” said Pimentel.