MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday reiterated he may be forced to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus if the threat of terrorism spreads to Visayas.
Last week, Duterte placed Mindanao under martial law and suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus there, following the siege of the terrorist group Maute in Marawi City.
The President, however, said militants jumping to Visayas to spread terror in the usually peaceful region is not a far-fetched idea, given the proximity of the area to the restive Mindanao region.
"That's why I mentioned in passing that if there is maybe a transfer of venue from Mindanao to the Visayas -- and to make it easy for the Philippines to challenge new engagements -- I will be forced to declare the suspension of writ of habeas corpus," he said.
"Not martial law, but iyong habeas corpus, so I can arrest you anytime without a warrant."
The suspension of the privilege of the writ means a person caught committing rebellion or invasion may be arrested by government forces without a court-issued warrant under certain conditions.
"That is a just a precautionary measure. I don’t think it will happen. I hope it will not, but if it does, we must be ready," Duterte said.
The clashes in Marawi erupted as state forces were on their way to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, considered one of the most wanted terrorists by the US. According to Padilla, Hapilon could still be in Marawi City.
At least 129 people, 89 of whom were terrorists, have been killed in the week-old clashes, according to the government.