Discussions set on Martial Law extension

Janvic Mateo, Marvin Sy, Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Discussions set on Martial Law  extension
Armed Forces of the Philipp ines (AFP) chief Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. said local government units, the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the religious sector would be involved in the discussions.
Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — The military will start assessing the implementation of martial law in Mindanao next week to determine if there is a need to extend it. 

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. said local government units, the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the religious sector would be involved in the discussions. 

“Next week, we will start the assessment with the visitation of Eastmincom (Eastern Mindanao Command) and Wesmincom (Western Mindanao Command),” Galvez said at a press briefing yesterday in Malacañang. “We have already asked some religious and also some of the LGUs (local government units) but we need to know, we need to assess further considering that the assessment coming from AFP should be jointly (done) with the PNP.”

President Duterte placed the entire Mindanao island under martial law on May 23, 2017 after Islamic State-linked terrorists occupied Marawi and held hostage dozens of civilians. Close to 1,000 terrorists and more than 160 soldiers were killed during the siege, the longest urban war in the Philippines since World War II.

Duterte declared Marawi liberated from terrorists in October 2017 but did not lift martial law because of alleged threats from jihadists and communists. Congress, which is dominated by Duterte’s allies, voted to prolong the military rule until the end of the year despite fears that it could lead to a dictatorship and some abuses. 

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo previously said there might be a need to extend martial law in Mindanao “if it is helping the population.” 

While he was careful to avoid preempting the assessment of security forces, Galvez cited the positive remarks about the imposition of military rule in the south. 

The military chief said no violent incident was recorded in Marawi during the barangay polls. He also cited the increased business activity in some parts of Mindanao, a development that he attributed to the improved security situation. 

“The Comelec (Commission on Elections), AFP and PNP also concluded that the barangay and SK (Sangguniang Kabataan) elections this 2018 is one of the most peaceful... they declared it as the most peaceful in the sense that there is no declaration of failure (of elections),” Galvez said.  

He added, “There’s a growing trend in the business sectors, especially in Cagayan de Oro, GenSan (General Santos), and even in Iligan. There is a commensurate correlational increase of business activity because of the seemingly relative peaceful condition in the area.”

Galvez also cited the recent statements of Ozamiz Archbishop Martin Jumoad, who claimed that martial law reduced crimes and enforced discipline among people in Mindanao.

Some lawmakers from Mindanao are also supportive of a martial law extension, the military chief added. 

Opposition lawmakers and activists are opposed to a martial law extension, saying it is not needed to rebuild war-torn Marawi and may even be used to impose authoritarian rule. 

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) believes it is still premature to recommend the extension of martial law in Mindanao on the basis of the upcoming Bangsamoro plebiscite and midterm elections next year.

However, CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia clarified: “The Commission recognizes that peace and order are necessary conditions for the conduct of any political exercise, such as elections and even the expected plebiscite, anywhere in the country.”

“The martial law declaration in Mindanao, however, was primarily justified to address claimed terrorist threats following the siege in Marawi City,” she added. 

She said there is a need for a thorough assessment of the effectiveness of martial law and a clear response to alleged cases of human rights violations, including the condition of internal displacement in the region. 

“There is a need to be cautious of compounding justifications for its extension, considering that a state of national emergency on account of lawless violence was also declared in Mindanao prior to the martial law declaration,” she said. 

“We trust in the capacity of our security forces in addressing lawlessness and threats of violence without martial law, especially in making all perpetrators, including terrorists, accountable for their crimes,” added De Guia. 

At least two opposition senators have rejected the possibility of extending martial law in Mindanao beyond the end of this year. 

Sen. Risa Hontiveros said Mindanao has been under martial law for over 500 days, which she described as “the longest martial law in the country” after that of Ferdinand Marcos.

“Is this now the new normal in the region? Or is Mindanao Duterte’s guinea pig for complete authoritarian rule? Is Mindanao now the President’s laboratory for his dangerous experiment to impose martial law all over the country?” she asked.

Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino IV said martial law is unnecessary even for the rebuilding of Marawi City, pointing out that the original reasons for declaring martial law in Mindanao – to address the siege of Marawi City and the continued terrorist threat in the region – were no longer present.

“You don’t need martial law to rebuild. Now even with martial law, the rehabilitation process is still delayed,” Aquino said.  

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