Mar­tial law up­held

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - TERESA CEROJANO In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Jim Gomez of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

An ac­tivist shouts slo­gans de­nounc­ing mar­tial law in Min­danao, Philip­pines, on Tues­day dur­ing a rally in front of the Supreme Court in Manila. The Philip­pine Supreme Court has up­held Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte’s dec­la­ra­tion of mar­tial law in the south­ern third of the coun­try, dis­miss­ing pe­ti­tions to nul­lify it.

MANILA, Philip­pines — The Philip­pine Supreme Court on Tues­day up­held the pres­i­dent’s dec­la­ra­tion of mar­tial law in the south in a le­gal boost to a mil­i­tary of­fen­sive that the de­fense chief said may soon suc­ceed in quelling an upris­ing by Is­lamic State group-linked mil­i­tants.

Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te said 11 of 15 jus­tices voted to dis­miss pe­ti­tions against the dec­la­ra­tion of mar­tial law, which Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte im­posed across the coun­try’s south­ern third for 60 days af­ter hun­dreds of gun­men wav­ing Is­lamic State-style black flags at­tacked the south­ern city of Marawi on May 23.

The pe­ti­tion­ers ar­gued the as­sault did not con­sti­tute a re­bel­lion that could jus­tify mar­tial rule, which might foster hu­man-rights abuses in a coun­try that ousted dic­ta­tor Fer­di­nand Mar­cos in a 1986 re­volt over wide­spread rights vi­o­la­tions.

“We were hop­ing the Supreme Court would be our last line of de­fense against a patently ab­surd de­ci­sion built on a fail­ure of in­tel­li­gence and a rhetoric of vi­o­lent machismo,” said Machris Cabreros of Ak­bayan, a left­ist po­lit­i­cal party whose of­fi­cers were among the pe­ti­tion­ers. “In­stead they caved in and un­wit­tingly opened the door to fur­ther creep­ing au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism.”

The gov­ern­ment’s top lawyer, So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral Jose Cal­ida, wel­comed the de­ci­sion, say­ing, “As the con­science of our na­tion, the Supreme Court did not sit idly to watch our coun­try get dis­mem­bered.”

Cal­ida has said ev­i­dence showed that an Is­lamic Statelinked al­liance of four lo­cal ex­trem­ist groups plot­ted to seize pre­dom­i­nantly Mus­lim Marawi as part of a plot to cre­ate an Is­lamic caliphate in South­east Asia. Duterte’s move helped troops cap­ture mil­i­tants and block their move­ment, se­cu­rity of­fi­cials said.

Af­ter 43 days of in­tense ground as­saults and airstrikes, troops have re­cap­tured most ar­eas of Marawi in­clud­ing parts of its cen­tral busi­ness dis­trict, where the gun­men turned build­ings into sniper posts that slowed the mil­i­tary’s ad­vance for weeks. Troops re­gained con­trol Mon­day of a key school com­pound where they re­cov­ered 15 as­sault weapons and found the re­mains of a for­eign-look­ing fighter, prob­a­bly a Sin­ga­porean, mil­i­tary of­fi­cials said.

In a speech mark­ing the air force’s found­ing an­niver­sary at Clark freeport north of Manila, Duterte said more than 40 Philip­pine air­craft were in­volved in the Marawi of­fen­sive.

“As we wrap up in our cam­paign to lib­er­ate Marawi, I am con­fi­dent that the Philip­pine air force will once again take an ac­tive role in the re­build­ing of the city,” Duterte said.

De­fense Sec­re­tary Delfin Loren­zana told re­porters that troops may be able to re­cap­ture the last few ar­eas held by the mil­i­tants in a week but he added that if the gun­men “fight to the last, then it will be longer.”

De­fense of­fi­cials hope the cri­sis will end be­fore Duterte de­liv­ers his an­nual state of the na­tion ad­dress on July 24, but Loren­zana said he would let com­man­ders set the pace of the bat­tle to avoid adding pres­sure that could en­dan­ger troops.

The mil­i­tary says 300 to 500 res­i­dents may still be trapped in their homes by fierce street-to-street bat­tles. More than 1,700 civil­ians have been res­cued by troops and gov­ern­ment vol­un­teers, in­clud­ing many who were shell­shocked, starv­ing or sick.

About 400,000 vil­lagers have aban­doned Marawi, a bas­tion of Is­lamic faith with hun­dreds of mosques, and out­ly­ing towns in Lanao del Sur prov­ince, about 500 miles south­east of Manila.

The un­prece­dented ur­ban at­tack has alarmed South­east Asian and West­ern gov­ern­ments, which fear that the Is­lamic State group’s bru­tal rule in Syria and Iraq, now col­laps­ing, may have gal­va­nized Asian mil­i­tants into at­tempt­ing to cre­ate their own so-called Is­lamic caliphate in the re­gion with funds from Mid­dle East-based ji­hadis.

De­spite Duterte’s an­tag­o­nism to­ward U.S. and Aus­tralian of­fi­cials, who have crit­i­cized his bloody crack­down on il­le­gal drugs, the West­ern al­lies have de­ployed surveil­lance planes to help Philip­pine troops track down the re­main­ing mil­i­tants in Marawi.

Loren­zana said Aus­tralia de­ployed two P3 Orion air­craft Fri­day in Marawi, where a sim­i­lar U.S. surveil­lance plane started op­er­at­ing a few weeks ago.

Euro­pean of­fi­cials, also of­ten a tar­get of Duterte’s ver­bal at­tacks, an­nounced Tues­day that they will pro­vide $980,000 in emer­gency aid for dis­placed civil­ians.

In­tense daily airstrikes have de­pleted the mil­i­tary’s stock­pile of bombs dropped by a new fleet of South Korean-made FA50 fighter jets, so a Philip­pine air force cargo plane was dis­patched to the United States to pick up new sup­plies, Loren­zana said.

AP/AARON FAV­ILA

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A Philip­pine po­lice­man tries to block ac­tivists protest­ing mar­tial law near the Supreme Court in Manila on Tues­day.

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