Military seeks 1-year martial law extension

AFP Chief Carlito Galvez Jr. photo

Armed Forces Chief Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. on Monday, December 3, announced the military is set to recommend another year of martial law in Mindanao. He cited the need to quell terrorists still “lurking” on the island.

According to Galvez, the “clamor” of local government officials in Mindanao, regional peace and order councils and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) was what the recommendation is based on.

 In a chance interview with reporters after a flag-raising ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, he said they will be recommending another year for martial law so that they can substantially make a significant dent on terrorism.

He also told them that terrorism still persists in Mindanao, citing bombing incidents in Maguindanao, Basilan, Sultan Kudarat and General Santos City, and the presence of the Abu Sayyaf group in Sulu.

The deadly bombing in Lamitan City, Basilan he referred to resulted in the deaths of 10 persons and wounding of seven others. This incident was followed by bombings in Isulan City, Sultan Kudarat and in General Santos City.

“There is really a need to constrict and limit the maneuver space of the terrorist to the maximum,” Galvez said.

“We have a very weak terrorism law so with that, martial law is needed to completely defeat terrorism,” he added.

Galvez’s successor will present the recommendation during a command conference before Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on December 12 — the day the military chief retires from service.

The military’s move is backed by Philippine National Police Chief Oscar Albayalde, who said martial rule would enable authorities to move against “lawless violence.”

Martial law in Mindanao was declared by President Rodrigo Duterte in May last year. This was in response to the attacks made by the Islamic State-inspired Maute group in Marawi City, which lasted for five months.

He issued Proclamation 216, placing the entire Mindanao under military rule — a declaration that was good only for only 60 days. However, it was was extended by Congress until the end of 2017 and was further extended until the end of 2018 by the legislative branch.

Palace: Duterte ‘may be persuaded’

Malacañang on Monday said the President “may be persuaded” to approve the recommendation of the military and police to extend martial law in Mindanao for at least one year.

Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said, “Given the support of martial law in Mindanao, even by a Catholic bishop and the citizens there, the president may be persuaded to go on to approve the recommendation. But of course, again, that is the prerogative of the president.”

According to Panelo, Duterte would consider the safety of the people in Mindanao in deciding whether or not to extend martial law in the south.

“Well, the basis palagi (always) would be the safety of the people there. If the threat remains and there is still an ongoing rebellion, then, constitutionally, the basis would be valid for continuation of martial law,” he said.

However, Panelo said it would still be up to Congress to heed the recommendation and extend military rule in Mindanao.

“Again, the Constitution grants them the authority to decide whether or not it will extend martial law. So we’ll leave it to them,” he said.

House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr., meanwhile, said that once Duterte backs up the recommendation of the Armed Forces and the national police to extend the martial law in Mindanao for another year, it would likely push through.

“If the president will ask for it, then chances are it shall be given,” Andaya said.

“The concurrence will be expedited if the military and the police will renew their commitment to respect the constitutional rights of every individual in the territory covered by the declaration,” he added. 

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