With martial law extended, defense chief vows to get rid of security threats

Audrey Morallo - Philstar.com
With martial law extended, defense chief vows to get rid of security threats

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana vowed on Wednesday to rid Mindanao of security threats after Congress extended martial law in the region until the end of 2018. Philstar.com/Efigenio Toledo IV, File

MANILA, Philippines — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Wednesday thanked the Congress for granting President Rodrigo Duterte's request to extend martial law in Mindanao for another year, vowing that security forces would not waste the opportunity to rid the region of threats to peace and order.

Lorenzana assured Filipino legislators that the military and the police would "end" rebellion and terrorism in Mindanao by destroying the infrastructure of Islamic State-inspired militants and other terror groups in the area.

He also vowed to prevent prevailing security threats from spilling into other parts of the country, just two months after Philippine security personnel liberated Marawi City, a lakeside town of 200,000, from terror militants who tried to transform the city into an ISIS province.

"The Department of National Defense is grateful for this affirmation of trust and confidence from our legislators," Lorenzana said in a statement, released hours after the Senate and the House voted overwhelmingly to accede to Duterte's request to keep martial law in place in Mindanao until Dec. 31, 2018.

Both chambers of Congress, where the president's allies hold massive majorities, spent less than half a day to approve Duterte's request for extension.

The Senate voted 14-4 while the House gave its concurrence through a 226-23 margin.

READ: Lorenzana: Rebellion still active elsewhere in Mindanao

According to Salvador Medialdea, the executive secretary of the president, there is factual basis for the continuation of military rule in Mindanao and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus despite the stoppage of fierce gunfights in Marawi, the country's only Islamic city.

"Despite the liberation of Marawi City, and the eerie silence in the main battlefield, a state of actual rebellion subsists in Mindanao, perpetrated not only by remnants of the DAESH-inspired DIWM but also other local and foreign terrorist groups, including the New People's Army, and ready to explode at any given time," Medialdea told senators and representatives who met at a joint session of the two chambers of Congress on Wednesday.

He stressed that public safety required the extension of military rule for the second time and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in order to "quell this rebellion completely."

READ: Kabataan rep: Martial law extension 'free pass for rights violations'

Opponents of the extension contend that allowing it could pave the way for the declaration of military rule nationwide and a rise in the number of human rights cases in the affected areas.

They also contend that there is no basis for the continuing placement of Mindanao, a region of 22 million, under martial law.

Medialdea, however, doused these fears and said that the military and the police had respected the Constitution in conducting their operations during the previous months.

"If I may stress, all these accomplishments were achieved with our Armed Forces and law enforcers exerting utmost respect for the Constitution and the protection of human rights at all times, as underscored in General Order No. 01 dated 30 May 2017," the senior government official said.

READ: MAT: Martial law extension a danger to human rights, democracy

Lorenzana, the defense secretary, expressed confidence that the rehabilitation of Marawi City would continue "unhampered" with the extension of martial law.

"The challenges we are facing in Mindanao are also challenges to each and every Filipino. Together, as a nation, we will prevail and prove to the world our collective resilience against odds," he said.

READ: ‘Martial law not meant to defer barangay, local elections,’ DND chief says

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