Ranking police and military officials assured a multi-sectoral gathering in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental on Tuesday that civilian authority would remain supreme even during the declaration of martial law in any region, such as in the Visayas.
The assurance was made as mayors, various church leaders, civil society organizations and other stakeholders attended a Peace Symposium to discuss gains and other accomplishments following the declaration of Negros Oriental as conflict-manageable and development ready.
Maj. Gen. Jon G. Aying, commanding officer of the 3rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army and Sr. Supt. Henry Biñas, acting Philippine National Police (PNP) provincial director of Negros Oriental, stressed that there were safeguards in the Constitution that would prevent abuses during a martial rule.
Maj. Gen. Aying, whose Army division covers ten provinces in the Visayas, in his security briefing disclosed the likelihood that President Rodrigo Duterte might expand the declaration of martial law outside of Mindanao if necessary based on his earlier pronouncements.
Asked about the possibility of a martial law in the Visayas on a scale of one to ten, Maj. Gen. Aying said “it is all under the discretion of the President”, adding that he supports whatever decision the Chief Executive will make.
“Rating is not so relevant on my part but to see the wisdom of the President. I agree with him if he really declares martial law in the Visayas region,” Aying said.
According to him, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is prepared for possible spillovers, incursions and attacks by extremist groups from Mindanao, such as the Abu Sayyaf and the Maute groups.
There are two battalions in Negros Oriental, two more in Negros Island and a total of 2,500 soldiers and CAFGUs, he said.
The national government can also immediately deploy additional security forces if a similar situation like the besieged Marawi City will take place here, Aying added.
Also, Maj. Gen. Aying gave the reassurance that there would be no abuses by military troops in the event of a martial law here because soldiers are now “very much indoctrinated that we have to work within the principles of human rights, the International Humanitarian Law and the rule of law”.
For part, Sr. Supt. Biñas, who is a lawyer, announced that whatever were the instructions from higher authorities regarding martial law, the PNP here would comply and abide by it.
Sr. Supt. Biñas explained that the purpose of martial law is “very noble” and it was “to quell or stop an invasion or rebellion when public safety requires it”.
But that does not mean that the AFP or the PNP will rule over the civilian authority, Biñas stressed.
It is natural that fear will prevail because of the people’s previous experience of martial law, said Sr. Supt. Biñas, referring to the Marcos era.
But there are safety nets laid out in Constitution and that Congress should review the grounds for the declaration of martial law, he pointed out. (Judy Flores Partlow/PNA)#DEFENDREPUBLIC