‘Martial law in Sulu a military option’

Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) - June 17, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Placing Sulu and Basilan under martial law to rid the two island provinces of the Abu Sayyaf menace is an option being considered by the incoming military leadership under the Duterte administration, according to Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, the incoming chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“As far as I am concerned that is an option. There seems to be a failure in local governance (in the two provinces). We have seen for months that the Abu Sayyaf kept on bringing their victims to Jolo,” Visaya said.

President Aquino on Tuesday admitted having considered imposing martial law in Sulu province to contain the Abu Sayyaf.

Aquino made the statement when he flew to Sulu to oversee military operations in rescuing the remaining hostages of the Abu Sayyaf following the beheading of Canadian Robert Hall last Monday. Hall was the second Canadian executed in two months after John Ridsdel in April.

Aquino said he had considered placing Sulu under martial law but backed out because it might backfire and gain more sympathy for the enemy.

Visaya said the plan to impose martial law in the two provinces is gaining support in the military following a series of reports that several local officials are allegedly benefiting from the Abu Sayyaf’s kidnapping activities.

“Perhaps that is an option that can be undertaken to reestablish order in Sulu and Basilan. Perhaps martial law can be an answer to prevent the Abu Sayyaf from continuing their kidnapping activities,” Visaya said.

He said there are already 11 military battalions deployed in Sulu but their heavy presence has failed to deter the bandit group.

Visaya said that once martial law is enforced in the two island provinces, the military can restrict the movements of the group branded as terrorist by western states.

Visaya though stressed a thorough study should be done before placing the two island provinces under military rule.

And if the studies show that placing the two provinces under military rule would put the government at an advantage, Visaya said he would recommend this to president-elect Rodrigo Duterte after he assumes the presidency.

Senior lawmakers said the imposition of martial law in parts of Mindanao to address the Abu Sayyaf is legally feasible.

Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles said then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had placed Maguindanao under martial law in 2009 following the massacre of 58 people by a political clan.

“President Duterte declaring martial law in some parts of Mindanao to address the Abu Sayyaf problem is legally possible. That is the president’s prerogative. I think that was done in 2009,” Nograles said.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said he believes the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), particularly Sulu, Basilan and Maguindanao, should be placed under martial law “to find, fight and finish the Abu Sayyaf and other bandit groups.”

For his part, Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino IV said all efforts must be undertaken to immediately put an end to the Abu Sayyaf.

Aquino said the bandit group has caused a lot of trouble for the country with its kidnappings and beheadings of both foreigners and Filipinos.

“We support whatever initiative is taken by the current administration and the administration of president-elect Rodrigo Duterte as long as these are consistent with our laws,” Aquino said.

“However, in all these actions, the welfare of the civilians, who could be caught in the crossfire, must always be considered,” he added.

ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman said the government should just launch an all-out offensive against the Abu Sayyaf instead of imposing martial law. 

“There are better options that will not trigger human rights abuses. It’s not necessary. No need as of this time,” Hataman said.  – Paolo Romero, Marvin Sy, Delon Porcalla, Cecille Suerte Felipe

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