By Hader Glang
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines
President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday said he gave green light for the Indonesian and Malaysian navies to blast off kidnappers or pirates that enter in Philippine waters.
In a televised speech at an oath-taking ceremony of a chamber of commerce in the southern city of Davao on Saturday evening, Duterte said he has good working relations with the Malaysian and Indonesian leaders in light of standard operating procedures for situations of hot pursuit in the Sulu sea.
"You can go ahead and blast them off," he said. "My order really to the Navy and coastguards if there's kidnapping and then (if they are) trying to escape blast them off ... If you have blasted them everyday that would stop kidnappings."
During the state visit of Duterte to Indonesia and Malaysia last year, the president agreed to let the two neighboring countries' navies enter Philippine waters to capture pirates that kidnap ships and tourists.
He also agreed to further strengthen the trilateral cooperation among the Philippine, Indonesian and Malaysian navy patrols to allow hot pursuit.
Also last year, top defense officials from Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia met in Vientiane, Laos to discuss the details of the SOP for hot pursuit.
Philippines water limits, particularly in Tawi-Tawi where a spate of kidnapping incidents at sea occurred last year, are close to the state of Sabah in the northeast of the island of Borneo.
The notorious local Daesh-linked Abu Sayyaf group kidnapped dozens of Malaysian and Indonesian citizens last year. One of the Malaysian hostages was beheaded after his family failed to deliver the ransom on time.
At the same event on Saturday evening, President Duterte said that no one can stop him from declaring martial law, insisting that if the situation in the country becomes virulent he would declare it.
He said if he has to declare martial law, he will declare it if that is the only way to protect the Filipinos and the integrity of the country.
"If I want to, and if it will deteriorate into something really very virulent, I will declare martial law if I want to. No one can stop me," he stressed.
"If it is needed, the other side will say, drugs, that's not enough, then I see that, you know, there are about 4 million slaves in this country."
Under the 1987 Philippine Constitution, a President can only declare martial law "in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it."
Duterte also said that the Supreme Court or Congress cannot stop him from declaring martial law if he deems it necessary because of any threat to the integrity of the country.
He still considers illegal drugs as one of the biggest threats to Filipinos.