By Genalyn D. Kabiling and Francis T. Wakefield
The government is planning to implement censorship of information related to public safety and national security during the martial law period in Mindanao.
“The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) has not recommended the suspension of the freedom of expression but will exercise the right to censure,” AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said during a press conference in Davao City.
Among the reasons cited by the military were “to ensure the safety of lives, to ensure operational security and the safety of our men in uniform who are fighting; and for other national security considerations.”
The appropriate guidelines on the planned censorship will be crafted and released soon for better public understanding, Padilla added.
“It will cover social media,” Padilla said, citing the need to prevent the spread of “tremendous disinformation” that only undermine military operations and harm innocent civilians.
He said surgical airstrikes have already been launched to drive out terrorists from Marawi City. But he declined to release operation details of the military’s clearing operations since such disclosure would “endanger lives.”
Padilla also assured that law-abiding citizens have nothing to fear about the martial law declaration since it is intended to address rebellion in Mindanao. “We would like to assure the public and request and appeal to you to trust the Armed Forces,” he said.
He also appealed to the public to cooperate with intensified security measures and report any government abuse during the martial law period. He said there will be “swift probe and quick action to ensure the accountability of our men.”
“On account of the doubts that had been expressed by many quarters, we also appeal to the public that should you see abuses on the part of those implementing martial law, men in uniform who are tasked to do that, we encourage you to report them,” Padilla said.
Meantime, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has been designated as martial law administrator while AFP chief Eduardo Año will be the main implementor.
“While we maintain that martial law does not target peace-inclined groups, we will enforce the law uniformly such that all violators of the law, regardless of group affiliations, will be dealt with accordingly,” he added.
Law and order
Padilla said the very basis for the declaration of martial law was to establish law and order and the rules of law.
“In areas where this is apparently breaking down, we shall be very strict and we shall be very harsh for those who are committing acts of rebellion,” Padilla said.
Padilla said according to the president, the AFP must guarantee that “For our citizens who are law-abiding, this will not impede any of their activities, and that they must not fear any measures. So we will only apply the harshest stand against those committing acts of rebellion,” he said.
He said for citizens holding on to unregistered loose firearms, they highly encourage them to surrender them to authorities or to initiate appropriate measures to legalize their possession so that they will not be subjected to the inconvenience of future search and seizure procedures.
“We also encourage the public to extend their full cooperation and support to facilitate the stabilization of Mindanao and hasten its road back to normalcy,” Padilla said.
“And hence, in this regard, we do request the public to be patient in the measures that will have to be undertaken to ensure that we are doing and going in that direction, part of which is the establishment of checkpoints in all areas and the possible declaration of curfew hours in certain parts of Mindanao,” he said.
“These measures will be implemented because of the necessity for national security and the safety of the people. Such measures will be announced ahead of time and we encourage the public, we ask them and request them, to please extend your full cooperation to avoid any inconvenience,” Padilla said.
The President earlier declared martial law in Mindanao after a Maute terror group, aided by foreign jihadists, launched a deadly attack on Marawi City. Also suspended was privilege of writ of habeas corpus, a legal safeguard against warrantless arrests and illegal detention.
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