If Lorenzana had his way, martial law in Mindanao may end soon

If Lorenzana had his way, martial law in Mindanao may end soon
In this Sept. 18, 2018 photo, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana meets US Secretary of Defense Jim mattis at the Pentagon in Washington DC. Lorenzana said passing the Human Security Act would be a better arrangement for the security concern in Mindanao.
US DoD / Air Force Master Sgt. Angelita Lawrence

MANILA, Philippines — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana is not in favor of extending the declaration of martial law in Mindanao, which will expire on December 31.

Lorenzana, however, said he would wait for the recommendation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police before he decides.

"If it only depended on me, I will not recommend the extension anymore, it has been too long," Lorenzana told reporters in mixed Filipino and English, according to a report from News5.

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao in May 2017 following an encounter between government troops and the Maute group in Marawi City.

The declaration has since been extended upon approval by both chambers of Congress.

The Defense chief said the government can do its job without retaining martial law in Mindanao.

"We can do our job especially if the Senate or Congress can pass the Human Security Act para to strengthen our law enforcement. That's a better arrangement than the martial law," he said.

In July, President Rodrigo Duterte said he would not hesitate to extend the declaration again if security officials will recommend it.

The president still considers the region a security concern and said he would assess the security situation in Mindanao.

“If the local government unit, the governors, mayors and even the congressmen would find that it could be in the best interest of the Filipinos in Mindanao, I would not hesitate to say yes,” Duterte said in July.

A progressive group had called for the lifting of martial law in Mindanao, pointing out that the recommendation of the military to implement "selective" martial rule in the region was an admission of its lack of basis.

"Martial law in Mindanao is useless as it could not even prevent heinous crimes in the major island. It is just an instrument against legal democratic activists, it has undermined democracy and human rights of the people," former Rep. Ariel Casilao (Anakpawis Party-list) said last month. — Patricia Lourdes Viray

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As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: February 19, 2019 - 1:00pm

The Armed Forces has yet to come up with a position on whether martial law in Mindanao, which is supposed to be lifted by the end of December 31, should be extended.

Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff, says the military is still working with different local government units, and the mayors and governors in the southern region of the Philippines, to get a consensus from Mindanao residents. 

He says groups and residents from areas that are run poorly by their LGUs have told the military they support an extension since this would make sure local politicians focus on their jobs.

"They cannot just go outside their towns because they have to report to their military administrators. Otherwise, we will again experience a problem of absenteeism by the local heads," Col. Noel Detoyato, AFP public affairs chief, also says.

The Philippine National Police said last week that it would support calls to extend martial law, which has already been extended once, "[i]f the president or the government is inclined to extend it. "

Martial law in Mindanao has been welcomed by business groups and residents, who say the tighter security is good for business.

Human rights groups and activist groups, however, have been calling for martial law to be lifted, citing alleged rights abuses against and extrajudicial killings of civilians since it was declared in May 2017 in response to a terrorist siege on Marawi City in Lanao del Norte. 

February 19, 2019 - 1:00pm

The Supreme Court once again sides with the Duterte administration in upholding the third extension of martial law in Mindanao, junking four consolidated petitions from lawyers, human rights workers and residents.

January 8, 2019 - 3:18pm

The Supreme Court has set oral arguments on January 22 and 23 on a petition questioning the constitutionality and factual basis of the third extension of martial law.

Rep. Edcel Lagman (Albay) and other members of the so-called Magnificent 7 bloc at the House of Representatives filed a petition last week against the extension of martial law until the end of 2019. Lagman has said there is no factual basis for the extension since no rebellion exists. 

He says the Armed Forces of the Philippines can address terrorism and lawless violence in Mindanao without martial law, which was meant as a temporary solution. Mindanao has been under martial law since May 2017.

January 7, 2019 - 7:45am

Rep. Edcel Lagman (Albay), one of the petitioners against the third extension of martial law in Mindanao, is hopeful that the Supreme Court will have a different appreciation of the factual basis for it as martial law approaches its second year.

"In the first place, this new extension of one year, it has been almost two years since the siege of Marawi, which the president said is over," he says in Filipino over Radyo5. "Marawi has been liberated and the supposed principal leaders of the terrorist groups are dead."

He again raises a military intelligence report saying nobody was arrested or charged with rebellion in 2017. Rebellion is one of the justifications for martial law in the 1987 Constitution and a supposedly continuing rebellion is the basis for the extension of martial law until the end of 2019. 

He adds that almost 60 percent of the Armed Forces of the Philippines has been deployed to Mindanao against nearly 900 local terrorists.

Col. Noel Detoyato, AFP public affairs office chief, on the same Radyo5 show, says however, that threat groups still exist.

"The main groups are those aligned with [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria], the Maute, remnants of Ansar Al-Khilafah Philippines... the New People's Army, which the government has been ooperating against for a long time," he says.

He adds authorities in General Santos City were able to arrest people for illegall posession of firearms and for illegal possession of drugs last week.

January 6, 2019 - 4:49pm

Moro activist group Suara Bangsamoro says it welcomes the petition against the third extension of martial law in Mindanao "for we believe that the extension is not only unconstitutional but also foments violence and state terror against our people in Mindanao." 

"President Duterte's tyranny in Mindanao has caused alarming cases of human rights abuses and worsening economic conditions. Mindanaons' disapproval of his fascist measures is reflected in the drop in his trust ratings in Mindanao based on a SWS survey conducted in December 2018 coinciding with the hearing of the extension of martial law," the group also says. 

The group, which claims that there have been rights violations in the government's implementation of martial law, says: "In the coming 2019 midterm elections, Mindanaoans' protest against martial law will be expressed by not voting for candidates who favored the third extension of martial law in Mindanao."

December 12, 2018 - 1:26pm

Voting 235-28-1, the 17th Congress approved President Rodrigo Duterte’s request for the extension of martial in Mindanao for another year up to the end of 2019.

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