Maute attacks: Lorenzana says no reason to suspend habeas corpus

MANILA, Philippines – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Tuesday, November 29, that the escalation of attacks linked to the homegrown Maute terror group in Mindanao will not justify the suspension of habeas corpus.

Lorenzana will advise against it if President Rodrigo Duterte seeks his advice, he said in a media interview on the sidelines of the 77th anniversary celebration of the Department of National Defense on Tuesday.

"I will advise not to do that yet kasi (because) under control pa naman eh (it is still under control). Hindi naman uncontrollable pa 'yung mga nangyayari (The situation is not yet uncontrollable)," he said.

The suspension of the writ of habeas corpus allows the state to arrest and jail anyone without trial.

Duterte had warned on November 12 that he may be forced to suspend the writ of habeas corpus if lawlessness, especially the illegal drugs trade, persists in the country.

"May sinabi si Presidente noong nakaraang linggo na baka mag-suspend siya ng writ, pero sa tingin ko itong ating (The President mentioned last week that he might suspend the writ, but I think our) operations against Maute is just normal military operations against lawless elements," Lorenzana said.

"'Yung nakitang bomba diyan eh hindi sapat siguro 'yun na dahilan para suspindihin 'yung writ of habeas corpus (The bomb we discovered should not be a reason to suspend the writ of habeas corpus)," he added.

The Maute terror group occupied the abandoned municipal hall of Butig town in Lanao del Sur and raised the black flag of the Islamic State (ISIS).

Most of the town's 16,000 residents have reportedly evacuated amid an intense military offensive to flush out the ISIS sympathizers from the town.

As of Monday afternoon, the military claimed to have killed a total of 35 Maute members while 20 soldiers were injured in the operations. 

On Monday, November 28, an improvised bomb was found near the US embassy in Manila. The police believes it carried the signature of the Maute group although the group has not claimed the foiled attack. 

Later on Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte claimed that the Maute group had direct links with ISIS. This has been consistently denied by the military, which maintained that the local terror group is only seeking international media attention to attract ISIS support. 

On Tuesday morning, an advanced party of military and Malacañang personnel headed to Marawi City for the President's planned visit on Wednesday was ambushed, causing one member of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) to be in critical condition and leaving 8 others hurt. – Rappler.com