Trump praises Rodrigo Duterte for how he's handled the 'drug problem'

Duterte declared martial law for 60 days across the southern third of the country, vowing to be "harsh".

Speaking to reporters after returning to Manila from a visit to Moscow, Duterte repeated that he will deal with militants "harshly" after declaring martial law in the southern Mindanao region, home to a decadeslong Muslim separatist rebellion.

Martial law could be extended for a year depending on how long the problem could be quelled, Duterte said on board a plane en route to the Philippines.

President Trump called Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte a "good man" and said the ruthless strongman is doing an "excellent job" during a phone call last month, a report said Tuesday. He was also furious that the Maute group had hoisted the flag of Islamic State.

"I have to do it to preserve the Republic of the Philippines and the Filipino people", he said.

Martial law allows Duterte to harness the armed forces to carry out arrests, searches and detentions more rapidly.

"Clashes are underway between government forces and militants in Marawi City, Mindanao". The militant leader has pledged allegiance to ISIS and the United States has offered a $5-million reward for information leading to his capture.

But, Abella and Lorenzana both emphasised on Tuesday that the martial law on this occasion remained restricted to Mindanao.

MARAWI, Philippines - Islamic State-allied militants in the Philippines have taken a Catholic priest and a group of churchgoers hostage, threatening to kill them if the nation's military does not cease its current offensive against them.

Brig. Gen. Rolando Bautista, commander of the Philippines' First Infantry Division, said security forces were trying to locate militants who had scattered everywhere and were blocking reinforcements from arriving.

Soldiers and guerrillas set up rival checkpoints and roadblocks on routes in and around Marawi as civilians fled the city of 200,000 in droves, leaving behind what one official described as a ghost town.

"Martial law is martial law ha", he said. Congress can revoke the martial law proclamation by majority vote and the Supreme Court can rule on the factual basis for its declaration.

The Catholic church said rebels had taken hostage Father Chito Suganob, a priest at Marawi's Cathedral of Our Lady Help of Christians, and several churchgoers.

The main Muslim rebel groups are involved in peace talks with the government.

Authorities have accused the Maute of involvement in a bombing in Duterte's hometown of Davao in September that left 14 people dead. Troops found homemade bombs, grenades, combat uniforms and passports of suspected Indonesian militants in the camp, the military said. The operation was aimed at capturing Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the Abu Sayyaf group notorious for piracy, banditry and for kidnapping and decapitating Westerners.

  • Zachary Reyes