Duterte: Martial law extension needed vs terrorists, communists

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
Duterte: Martial law extension needed vs terrorists, communists

In this July 20 photo, President Rodrigo Duterte, center, clad in a camouflage uniform prepares to board a helicopter from an undisclosed place to visit troops in Marawi city. Second from right is Armed Forces Chief Gen. Eduardo Año. Presidential Photographers Division/Ace Morandante, file

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte said the continuing threats of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-inspired terrorists, local terrorist groups and the New People's Army require an extension of martial law in Mindanao for another year.

The president noted that the surviving members of the ISIS-inspired Maute group and their allies have been recruiting members in Maguindanao, North Cotabato, Sulu and Basilan.

"These activities are geared towards the conduct of intensified atrocities and armed public uprisings in support of their objective of establishing the foundation of a global Islamic caliphate and of a Wilayat not only in the Philippines but also in the whole of Southeast Asia," Duterte said in his letter to the Congress.

Duterte also warned that the Turaifie group, the potential successor of Isnilon Hapilon as Islamic State emir for Southeast Asia, is planning to conduct bombings in the Cotabato area.

The presence of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao and North Cotabato, as well as the Abu Sayyaf Group in Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Zamboanga Peninsula also remain a security concern in the region.

At least 15 violent incidents brought about by the BIFF have been reported during the martial law period in the region. These incidents include harassment and roadside bombings against government troops.

The ASG, on the other hand, have conducted at least 43 acts of terrorism such as attacks using improvised explosive devices, harassment and kidnappings.

The NPA has launched at least 385 attacks, both terrorism and guerilla warfare, in Mindanao, according to Duterte.

While the government was preoccupied with addressing the threat of ISIS, local terror groups and the NPA have intensified their rebellion against the government "purposely to seize political power through violent means and supplant the country's democratic form of government with Communist rule."

Duterte requested for a one-year extension of martial law after receiving a letter from Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, stating the recommendation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Based on their security assessment, the military suggested the extension of martial law for another year to "ensure total eradication of [ISIS-inspired groups], other like-minded local/foreign terrorist groups and armed lawless groups, and the communist terrorists and their coddlers, supporters and financiers."

The House of Representatives and the Senate is expected to hold a joint session this week to discuss Duterte's request for extending martial law in Mindanao.

"We may have a joint session Thursday or Friday as part of the [Second] Regular Session, without need of a special session," House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said.

Congress readily agreed with the declaration of martial law in May 23 and a request to extend the martial law period until the end of the year sailed smoothly through a special session in July.

Opposition lawmakers: No basis for extension

A handful of lawmakers, however, have argued that there is no basis for Duterte to further extend martial law.

Sens. Bam Aquino, Franklin Drilon, Risa Hontiveros, Francis Pangilinan and Antonio Trillanes IV said martial law, along with military air strikes, were the primary reasons the residents fled Marawi in the early stage of the Maute group's siege.

"And martial law is also the reason why they are afraid to return, even in cleared areas," they added.

Rep. Edcel Lagman (Albay, 1st District), meanwhile, said arguments for the extension of martial law are weak on the basis of the Constitution.

"The projected extension of martial law in Mindanao is constitutionally infirm, both as to grounds and duration. Martial law can only be declared and its extension authorized in 'case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it,'" Lagman said.

He argued that "actual invasion or rebellion" no longer exists in Mindanao as Duterte had declared Marawi liberated.

"Even the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines admit only the existence of threats from remnants of terrorist groups who are reportedly recruiting fighters and regrouping to exact 'vengeance' against government forces," he added.

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