MANILA, Philippines – National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr is inclined to recommend another extension of martial law in Mindanao, he told reporters on Tuesday, July 23.
Saying threats like the New People's Army and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) remain in the southern region, he said may push for martial law until the end of 2020.
"I'll go for one year because you still have problems there but, you know, let us see how we improve after December," he said on the sidelines of a post-State of the Nation Address (SONA) press conference in Quezon City.
The former military chief, however, said he is open to lifting martial law in some parts of Mindanao like Davao City. Its mayor, presidential daughter Sara Duterte, has said she wants military rule lifted in her city.
"Why not? Kung kaya na (If it can be done). Because Davao city is already a hardened area," said Esperon, saying how local chief executives of the city, like President Duterte himself, were strict with security given terror attacks and violence there.
Martial law in Mindanao is in place until December 2019 when Duterte must decide whether to ask for a 4th extension.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines, in a statement, said it puts "great weight" on Esperon's input, but will be basing its own recommendation on other factors as well.
"One of those variables is the prevailing security situation on the ground as it bears on the constitutional requirement of the law," said AFP spokesman Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo, pointing out that the decision whether or not to extend is 5 months away.
They will also consider the approval of amendments and insertion of new provisions to the Human Security Act of 2007 championed by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and lawmakers.
Lorenzana has said there would be no need for martial law or the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus if the Human Security Act was amended to give security forces more teeth.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, former police chief, had called the measure one of the "weakest" anti-terrorism laws in the world. Under it, the government can only detain suspected terrorists for 3 days and could only surveil suspected terrorists for 30 days.
Proposed amendments would extend detention to 30 days and surveillance to 90 days.
Arevalo also said in his statement that inputs of local government chiefs in Mindanao, including of Mayor Sara Duterte's, will also be considered by the military when it crafts its recommendation. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.