MANILA, Philippines — A predecessor of President Rodrigo Duterte urged people to trust and support him on placing Mindanao under martial law.
“I’ve been president. I was president … and being president, you have information that others do not have. They help you make a decision but you cannot share the information with others,” Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said in a message to a program of the Inner Wheel Clubs of the Philippines in Makati City.
“Therefore, it’s important we just trust the president because he knows what we don’t know, he knows what he’s doing, so let us all support the martial law of President Duterte in Mindanao,” she said.
“I’d like to use the opportunity to stand foursquare behind President Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao,” she added.
Duterte declared the whole of Mindanao under martial law on May 23, soon after fighting broke out between extremist gunmen and government forces in Marawi City. Although the declaration is originally for 60 days, he has hinted that he may extend it and could even expand its coverage to the Visayas.
Arroyo, who was president from 2001 to 2010, also briefly declared martial law in Maguindanao soon after the November 23, 2009 Amptuan massacre that claimed the lives of 58 persons, including 32 journalists. The slaughter was blamed on members of the Ampatuan clan, among her closest allies when she was chief executive.
She also briefly placed the country under a state of national emergency to thwart an alleged coup plot in February 2006. The Supreme Court later ruled parts of her proclamation and the warrantless arrests of opposition figures and the raid on an opposition newspaper unconstitutional.
Duterte’s martial law declaration is being challenged before the Supreme Court. Two petitions have also been filed asking the tribunal to compel Congress to convene in joint session to debate and vote on the matter.
Assessing Duterte’s first year in office, Arroyo said he had shown “awesome leadership and resolve in the many programs that he set out to do during his presidency.”
“In the first year he completed yesterday (Friday) he instituted bold reforms against illegal drugs and corruption,” she said.
She also praised the current administration’s economic agenda, peace and order efforts, and anti-corruption initiatives, and called Duterte a unifying figure.
“One thing that the president has done is to inspire and unite the Filipino people toward his goal of effecting real change in the country, pagbabago,” she said as she wished him “the best of health for the rest of his term.”