Duterte: I was forced to declare martial law to prevent civil war

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 20) — Nearly a month after declaring martial law in Mindanao, President Rodrigo Duterte maintains his hand was forced into imposing military rule in the south and there's a compelling reason for it.

In his visit to wounded soldiers in Cagayan de Oro City on Tuesday afternoon, Duterte said the motive behind the Marawi siege was to make it a province of the terror group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) — and this was something that Christians in Mindanao would not allow.

"Gulo na 'yan kasi ang mga Kristiyanos sa Mindanao, mag-a-armas rin. Iyan ang ating hindi na pwedeng payagan kasi 'pag ang mag-armas na ang civilian rin, it will be a civil war," the President said.

[Translation: There will be trouble because the Christians in Mindanao will also arm themselves. We can not let this happen because there will be a civil war.]

Related: AFP to public: Visit wounded soldiers in hospitals

Duterte said this was the reason behind his decision, to stop Maute Group in its tracks and prevent widespread violence.

"Ayaw ko. Ayaw ko talagang mag-martial law. Napipilitan lang ako... Kung 'di naman ako mag-declare ng martial law, aabutin tayo ng problema patong-patong, baka hindi na natin masolban (I really didn't want martial law. I was just forced to do it... If I didn't declare martial law, the problems would worsen beyond our control)."

Duterte said in a June 9 speech in Sultan Kudarat also told soldiers that he was "not proud, not happy" about declaring martial law because it meant something was wrong in the country.

Related: Duterte says martial law not meant to keep him in power

The chief executive then thanked the soldiers for their service to the country and said he shared the grief over the loss of lives in the battlefield. As their commander-in-chief, he said was hurt the most when soldiers die as he was the one who imposed martial rule.

He added that he didn't expect government troops would suffer such heavy casualties — with fatalities now at 65. He also mentioned that hope for Mindanao lay in the peace talks, eventually leading to the creation of an autonomous Bangsamoro region.