TWIN BLASTS. Soldiers evacuate one of the casualties in the first of the two bombs that exploded in Jolo, Sulu on Aug. 24, 2020. The twin blasts killed 17people and injured 75 others. (Photo courtesy of 11th Infantry Division Explosive Ordnance Demolition)
MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte has three options to address terrorism in Mindanao in wake of the deadly twin blasts that killed 17 people and injured 75 others in the Jolo, Sulu on Monday.
In a virtual Palace briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said it is best to wait for the President to decide after considering the recommendations of the police, military, and other top officials.
“So abangan na lang po natin kung ano ang desisyon pero dalawang pong alternatibo—o tatlo ‘no: as is, martial law or iyong Anti-Terror Law (Let’s just wait for his decision but he has two alternatives or three: as is, martial law, or the Anti-Terror Law),” Roque said.
Roque said Duterte can decide to implement the Anti-Terrorism Law to address terrorism.
“Wala naman pong ibang dapat gawin pa kung Anti-Terror Law dahil iyon naman po ay naging batas na at pinatutupad na po natin (There’s nothing left to do if the President decides to implement the Anti-Terrorism Law because it’s already a law which is already being implemented),” he said.
Roque, in an interview over CNN Philippines on Tuesday, said Duterte needs to be “very careful” in assessing the recommendation because there should be a “legal and factual” basis to declare martial rule in Sulu.
“Although the recommendation has been made, the President has to be very careful that it will pass the scrutiny of the legislative and the judicial branches of government,” he said.
Even if Duterte failed to tackle the Jolo bombings in his public address last Monday night, Roque said, the President has already directed the top officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police during a joint command conference to take appropriate actions.
“The fact that he (Duterte) did not say anything, it’s probably because he has given the necessary orders to the top brass of the AFP and the PNP, and you don’t discuss what you intend to do as far as the situation on the ground is (concerned) publicly,” he said.
On Tuesday, Army Chief Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana proposed the reimposition of martial law in Sulu to control the movement of terrorists.
Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, Brig. Gen Bernard Banac, said the police force also backed the proposal, noting that the absence of implementation rules and regulations (IRR) is delaying the enforcement of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro “Teddyboy” Locsin Jr. also supported the army chief’s proposal saying it would prevent another bombing attack in Sulu.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana as well as the Senate saw no need for martial law in Sulu since the Anti-Terrorism Law is already in effect.
‘No need for IRR’
Enacted last July 3, the anti-terrorism law became effective on July 18.
Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, however, pointed out that the agencies tasked with crafting and issuing the IRR of the law would yet have to do so.
In an interview over RMN, Roque said an IRR is not necessary to be able to implement the law.
“Kailangan lang po ng IRR kung mayroong mga specific na tasking na gagawin ng mga departamento. Pero kung wala naman po, hindi na kinakailangan iyan – batas po is batas, puwede nang ipatupad (The IRR is only needed if there is a specific tasking which the department needs to carry out. But if there’s none, it’s not necessary. A law is a law, it can be implemented),” he said.
Roque also said petitions against the law filed before the Supreme Court will not affect the crafting of the IRR.
“Wala hong problema iyon kaya nga ano pang kinakailangan mong IRR? Eh nandoon na naman malinaw kung ano iyong kapangyarihan ng Anti-Terrorism Council (That’s not a problem that’s why is there a need for an IRR? The powers of the Ani-Terrorism Council are clear),” he said.
Reports showed that the first explosion happened along Serrantes Street in Walled City village in Jolo at about 11:53 a.m. on Monday, while the second occurred just 100 meters away at 1:06 p.m.
The attacks were reportedly carried out by two Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) suicide bombers.
One of the suicide bombers was an Indonesian national who was said to be the wife of 23-year-old Norman Lasuca, the first identified Filipino suicide bomber; while the other was the wife of Talha Jumsah alias Abu Talha, a slain bomb expert who served as the ASG’s liaison to the Islamic State (ISIS).
Section 18, Article 7 of the 1987 Constitution states that a president can declare martial law and suspend the writ of habeas corpus for a period not exceeding 60 days, in case of invasion or rebellion.
It also provides that such proclamation of martial law or suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus can either be revoked or extended for a period determined by Congress through joint voting. (PNA)