By Genalyn Kabiling
President Duterte is mulling on bringing more government troops with him to Lanao del Sur if reports of violence continue in the province amid the election period.
The President has expressed concern about the “trouble” in Lanao province and bared plans to visit the area to help keep peace and order in the area. He warned the groups sowing violence to stop their unlawful activities or else face the full force of the law.
“I’m talking about the trouble that is now going on in Lanao del Sur. Either you stop it or marami diyan, failure of an election kung hindi makaboto o talagang plain terrorism [Either you stop it or there are many, a failure of an election if they cannot vote or plain terrorism],” Duterte said during an administration campaign rally in Pasig City last Saturday.
“Pagka ganun, pagbalik ko diyan magdala na ako ng maraming sundalo [If that happens, I will return and bring many soldiers],” he added.
The commander-in-chief has justified the possibility of taking the military option to help address the peace and order problem in Lanao, citing the existing proclamation of martial law in Mindanao.
“You must remember that until now martial law exists in Mindanao. Do not force me. Do not force my hand to do something which you might not like and hate me for all time,” he added.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the President is expected to visit Lanao on Sunday amid his concerns about the peace and order issues.
Martial law has been declared in Mindanao following the deadly terror siege in Marawi City in May 2017. The constitutionality of the extension of martial law until December 31, 2019 has been upheld by the Supreme Court despite criticisms from some rights groups.
The President assured that government troops would remain neutral while performing their duty to ensure peace and order especially during the election period.
“Kaibigan man tayo o hindi, administration, hindi, neutral ako pati neutral ang pulis, neutral ang sundalo. That’s the order of the day. Wala — kaya ‘yung dito, ang gulo eh, I will… Kaya sinasabi ko nga na baka lilipad ako doon para pagsabihan lang [We may be friends or not, I will be neutral, my police will be neutral, the soldiers will be neutral. That’s the order of the day. It’s chaotic there. That’s why I’m saying I might fly over there just to remind them],” he said.
Duterte has directed troops to conduct checkpoints and seize loose firearms to help keep peace and order. He also reminded candidates are only allowed to have two bodyguards but are not permitted to carry high-powered firearms.
“Ngayon, ‘pag dumaan ka ng checkpoint ang order ko sa army pati pulis, ‘pag may firearm ka na M-16 o M-14, ‘pag sinabi ng pulis pati military ibaba mo ‘yan i-surrender mo. ‘Pag hindi mo sinunod ‘yan sabihin ko — sabi ko sa pulis pati military, patayin mo, patayin mo. [Now, if you pass by a checkpoint, Ive order the Army and police if you have M-16 or M-14 firearm, if the police and military say put it down, surrender them. If you don’t follow them, I told the cops and military to kill them],” he said.
“Kasi lumalaban, that’s defiance. So how can you arrest a person who does not want to surrender? Eh ‘di patayin mo. ‘Yan ang utos ko sa lahat. Buong Pilipinas ‘yan,” he added.