President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday declared Martial Law in the entire island of Mindanao following attacks by the ISIS-inspired Maute group in the city of Marawi, cutting short his first state visit to Russia this week.
"The President has called me and asked me to announce that as of 10 p.m. Manila time, he has already declared Martial Law for the entire island of Mindanao," Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a press briefing in Moscow, Russia just before midnight on Tuesday PH time.
"Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra has clarified that this is possible given the existence of a rebellion in Mindanao based on Article VII, Section 18 of the Constitution. This is good for 60 days," Abella added.
Duterte will be leaving Moscow at around 12 midnight, cancelling his meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev as a result of this new development.
"They understand that the presence of the President is essential in the Philippines. But I will be staying behind. The agreements will be signed," Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said.
The President will be arriving at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila at around 5 pm on Wednesday.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, meanwhile, said that several vital installations were set on fire as the Maute group took over some areas in Marawi City.
"Our troops reacted properly but as of tonight, the Maute group burned several facilities, the St. Mary's Church, city jail, the Ninoy Aquino school and the Dansalan College. The Maute fighters still occupy also the main street of Marawi City," Lorenzana reported.
(Photo shows government troops in Marawi City amid heavy fighting between them and the Maute group (inset). From the Facebook post of Mohamman Manshawi.)
"As of tonight, there were three government troops killed, one PNP and two army… and 12 wounded. The whole of Marawi City is blacked out. There is no light and there are Maute snipers all around. So the troops are still on holding and several troops have joined them from other several neighboring units," he added.
Reports said police commandos backed by the Army’s 103rd Brigade clashed with the members of the Maute Group, who had besieged the city jail in an attempt to free their jailed comrades.
Residents said they saw the black banner of the terrorist Islamic State mounted on vehicles on the streets of Marawi Tuesday as the fighting raged.
Others posted on social media photos of soldiers and choppers and Maute terrorists with their black flags.
In November 2016 and January 2017, Maute terrorists attacked and occupied the municipality of Butig in Lanao del Norte, resulting in dozens of casualties on both sides.