Duterte wants 1 more year of ML in Mindanao
(The Philippine Star) - December 10, 2017 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte has approved the recommendations of security officials and will seek a one-year extension of martial law in Mindanao to contain terrorism and other threats to public safety.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said a letter requesting the extension of military rule in the south would be transmitted today to Congress.

“Recommendation is one year,” Medialdea said in a text message yesterday.

Earlier, Malacañang officials said Duterte had received the recommendations of the Department of National Defense, Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police to extend martial law in Mindanao. The officials assured the public that the safety of Filipinos would be the main consideration in making his decision.

“(The President’s) paramount concern is the security of our people especially the Mindanaoans in the face of threats and the use of available means under the law to fight them,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement.

Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23 to run after Islamist militants who occupied Marawi and held hostage dozens of civilians. Congress voted in July to extend military rule until the end of the year.

Last week, the military expressed support for a proposal to extend martial law by one more year, saying this could quell the threats posed by terrorists who survived the Marawi siege and communist rebels.

But some sectors are worried that the extension of martial law in Mindanao would lead to human rights abuses. Opposition lawmakers are also against an extension, saying lifting military rule would allow residents affected by the Marawi crisis to return to their homes.

The extension of martial law in Mindanao requires the approval of Congress, which will go on a month-long break before the weekend.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said they have been notified of the request.

But Alvarez said he asked that the request be made formal in a letter “so that we (Congress) can act on it immediately.”

Alvarez told The STAR that he expects to receive the letter of the President this morning.

Alvarez has said it would be best to ask the people from Mindanao regarding the matter because they would know better.

Justified?

Bangon Marawi Task Force chair Eduardo del Rosario, who oversees the rebuilding of war-torn Marawi, wants martial law in Mindanao extended to secure rehabilitation efforts and foil attempts to recruit people into terrorist groups.

The DND also said there is still a credible terrorist threat in Mindanao that justifies the extension of martial law being enforced in the area.

DND public affairs chief Arsenio Andolong said the proposed extension of martial law “will help us to continue our momentum in our campaign against the Daesh (Islamic State) and their sympathizers.”

He noted that doing otherwise will allow terrorist cells and sympathizers to regroup considering reports that they are already recruiting in the Lanao area.

“So I think this will help curb their activities on the ground and if we don’t have martial law, it will be very difficult (to implement) the rehabilitation of Marawi and the other war-torn areas,” Andolong explained.

He said rehabilitation work will entail movement of logistics and equipment and allowing terrorist groups to roam free can hamper the operations due to security concerns.

Andolong said “there is a threat” and that in terms of seriousness, such depends on the area but “it is there, it is credible.”

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman and Akbayan party-list Rep. Tom Villarin said there is no basis for Duterte to ask Congress to extend martial law in Mindanao because the Constitution states clearly this can only be done in “case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it.”

Lagman said there is no more “actual invasion or rebellion” in Mindanao as the President himself had declared that Marawi had been liberated from local and foreign terrorists two months ago.

Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat of the first district said the proposed martial law extension must be tackled before Congress goes on a Christmas break on Dec. 12 “because if it is not then… we have to go for a special session.”

Lobregat said Congress will also have to tackle the duration of the martial law extension.

“Let us wait for the President’s request. I’m sure it will be upon the recommendation of the PNP and the AFP,” Lobregat added. –With Michael Punongbayan, Delon Porcalla, Roel Pareño

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