Duterte: There is a very strong rebellion in Mindanao

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — President Rodrigo Duterte often says his peace efforts with rebel groups have lessened armed conflict in Mindanao.

But it seems the President is now singing a different tune.

"We have a very strong rebellion in Mindanao, terrorists in Jolo, Sulu, kidnapping people almost every day, putting a shame to our country," the President said Monday in a speech at the National Bureau of Investigation's 80th anniversary.

"Every time they do it, they slap us, internationally," Duterte added.

Duterte made these remarks days after raising the possibility of suspending in Mindanao the writ of habeas corpus - a move that would allow warrantless arrests, and could bring the nation one step closer to a possible declaration of martial law.

"Ang Maute, grabe ang bakbakan dito," Duterte said in a speech Friday in Davao City. "At kung magkalat itong still lawlessness, warning ko lang sa kanila 'yan. Ayaw ko kasi hindi maganda. But if you force my hand into it, I will declare the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, not martial law." [Translation: The battles here with the Maute Group are intense. If this lawlessness spreads, I am warning them. I don't like it because it's not nice.]

The Philippines has been under a state of lawless violence since September 5, after a deadly bombing in Davao City which left 15 dead and dozens wounded.

The President made no mention of suspending the writ of habeas corpus in his speech at the National Bureau of Investigation anniversary.

But Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said it is an option.

"As we are under a state of emergency on account of lawless violence in Mindanao and should conditions that are in place that demand it, the President may have this option," Abella said in a statement Monday.

The pronouncement should be a warning to lawless elements that the President is ready to use his powers under the Constitution, Abella added.

Article VII Section 18 of the 1987 Constitution states the writ of habeas corpus may be suspended for not more than 60 days in case of invasion, rebellion or when public safety requires it.

Critics, from lawmakers to mililtant groups, expressed worries on Monday that suspending the writ of habeas corpus would bring the nation a step closer to Martial Law.

The President is clearly worried about terrorism which he hopes to address with the help of Indonesia and Malaysia. He has also cited the need for a "calibrated" strategy.

"So we will have a calibrated thing here. I will not just sit down and allow my people to be slaughtered, for the sake of human rights," he said in his NBI speech.

"We are made to choose sometimes what to do. Either we do something right to protect something or do something wrong to protect society," Duterte said.