VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte revises Marawi story, contradicts martial law justification

President Rodrigo Duterte early this month said the Marawi crisis was “not an overt act of rebellion,” contradicting his official justification for declaring martial law in Mindanao last year.


During a Nov. 6 Cabinet briefing, Duterte repeatedly said the war in Marawi City was not caused by an “overt act” of rebellion but was the result of an anti-drug operation gone awry:

“You know, the war in Marawi was not an overt act of rebellion at all. Kung totoohin mo talaga (If you really look at it), if there was any crime without the uprising, it could be sedition. But it was a rebellion in the sense that the police at that time was serving — policeman was serving a warrant of arrest for one of the Maute for drugs.”

He added:

Pagdating doon (When they got there), they were met with a volley of gunfire and they had to call the marines. That day, nine marines were killed. What caused it? Or what precipitated the action? Drugs. It was not an overt crime of raising a flag and shouting the sloganeering of the ISIS. It was — it started with a drug raid.”

He also said:

“But there was no overt act at all in the beginning to tell us that there was a rebellion in the offing. It was a police and a gangster shootout.”

Source: PCOO, President Rodrigo Duterte,
Remarks during the lecture on militarization and drugs, Nov. 6, 2018, watch from 25:16-27:11.


Duterte’s claim contradicts what he said in the 2017 report he submitted to Congress justifying Proclamation 216 that placed the whole of Mindanao under martial law after the Marawi crisis.

The report instead cited events that took place on May 23, 2017 in Marawi City which it said constituted rebellion:

“The cutting of vital lines for transportation and power; the recruitment of young Muslims to further expand their ranks and strengthen their force; the armed consolidation of their members throughout Marawi City; the decimation of a segment of the city population who resist; and the brazen display of DAESH flags constitute a clear, pronounced, and unmistakable intent to remove Marawi City, and eventually the rest of Mindanao, from its allegiance to the Government.”

Source: Supreme Court,
Decision on whether there was sufficient factual bases for the issuance of Proclamation 216, July 4, 2017.

“Daesh” refers to a militant Islamic fundamentalist group in Syria and Iraq, and is used as another term for Islamic State, according to the Oxford Living Dictionaries.

The report only mentioned “drugs” when it recounted the death of a member of the provincial drug enforcement unit after the Maute group occupied the Marawi City Jail, and when it said lawless groups were supported by foreign-based terrorist groups and illegal drug money.

It did not mention any drug raid, only saying government forces were met with gunfire while serving an arrest warrant on Isnilon Hapilon, the most wanted leader of the ASG, forcing them to retaliate (See Martial law in Mindanao: A timeline).

Article VII, Section 18 of the 1987 Constitution allows the president to place the country or any part of it under martial law only in cases of invasion or rebellion, and when public safety requires. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Explaining martial law)


Martial law in Mindanao has been extended twice since Proclamation 216 was issued.

First on July 22, 2017, when Congress, in a joint session, approved the President’s proposed extension until Dec. 31 that year, since the rebellion has not been fully quelled within the 60-day allowance of the Constitution.

The second on Dec. 17, 2017, when it was extended for another year, due to remnants of the Maute group and the ASG in some areas in Mindanao, as well as the “intensified decades-long rebellion” of the New People’s Army against the government, among others.


PCOO, President Rodrigo Duterte, Remarks during the lecture on militarization and drugs, Nov. 6, 2018, Military to recommend another extension of Mindanao martial law, Nov. 13, 2018

ABS-CBN News, AFP eyes another martial law extension in Mindanao, Nov. 14, 2018

GMA News, AFP ‘more likely’ to urge extending martial law in Mindanao –spokesperson, Nov. 14, 2018

Supreme Court, Decision on whether there was sufficient factual bases for the issuance of Proclamation 216, July 4, 2017

Official Gazette, Proclamation 216

Official Gazette, Revised Penal Code

PCOO, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella, PCO Assistant Secretary Marie Banaag and AFP Spokesperson Restituto Padilla, “Mindanao Hour” Press Briefing, May 29, 2017

Official Gazette, 1987 Constitution

House of Representatives, Special Session, July 22, 2017

House of Representatives, Resolution of Both Houses No. 4, Dec. 13, 2017

(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

2018-11-21 07:53:33 UTC