President Rodrigo Duterte slammed local terrorist groups—like the Abu Sayyaf, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and the New People’s Army—for exploiting the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak to serve what he called their nefarious activities.
But Duterte said religion had nothing to do with terrorism.
The President made the statement at the Aqaba Process Virtual Meeting on COVID-19 Response on Wednesday, saying amid the pandemic, all nations would not let up in the fight against terrorism.
“COVID-19 has not quarantined terrorists, but we will not allow COVID-19 to bring our people to their knees, Duterte said.
However, the Chief Executive stressed that religion had nothing to do with terrorism, adding “all faiths – Islam included – teach us to love not hate; to build peace not destroy; and, to celebrate our common humanity and not trample on it with senseless and ruthless violence.”.
Recognizing the lingering security threats, the President has called on world nations to ensure there is “no room for the barbarity of terrorists and extremists forces.” He said they must be “stronger” and “not let up” in the fight against the scourge of terrorism.
Duterte’s statement was in reference to a call for an intensified anti-terrorism efforts after two deadly bombings hit Jolo, Sulu, a suspected stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf, on August 24.
At least 15 people, including soldiers, were killed and dozens wounded when two blasts ripped through the main town of Jolo.
It was considered the biggest attack in Sulu since January 2019 when two bombs exploded at the Jolo cathedral that killed 20 people and injured dozens more.
Because of the pandemic, Duterte said that no country – big or small, rich or poor – had been spared by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For the first time, all of humanity fear the exact same invisible menace. Not even the Second World War had this most sweeping effect,” he added.
Meanwhile, a member of the House of Representatives said Duterte had the prerogative to declare a state of Martial Law in Sulu.
Assistant Majority Leader and Rep. Jericho Nograles of Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta (PBA) party-list group said the declaration of a state of Martial Law in a specific region was nothing new because it had been done before within the Constitutional framework.
But this act must have the concurrence of Congress which has the duty to affirm, modify, or reject Presidential action, he added.
Nograles was also quick to say that martial law should be only used as last resort and there was no other means of quelling “imminent or existing widespread violence.”
He said that while the terrorist threat in the province of Jolo was really serious and must be addressed right away, the rest of Mindanao was relatively peaceful.
“The Constitution is clear that the declaration of a state of martial law is a Presidential prerogative. Our constitution is designed to leave the declaration of martial law to civilians by, first, giving the President the prerogative and, second, for the Congress to uphold or overturn that decision. It is not surprising that the military would perceive martial law, a military solution, to address a challenge,” Nograles said.
He added: “Martial law under civilian rule is necessary only when the justice system cannot operate properly or cannot protect the people any longer.
“This collapse is usually brought about by imminent or existing widespread violence or danger to life, liberty, or property. Until such time is proven, martial law would be premature.
“If the military thinks it is necessary now, then they should show proof, first, to the President and, subsequently, to Congress when such a declaration is made.”