MANILA, Philippines – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Monday, November 11, he was not inclined to recommend extending martial law in Mindanao after it expires on December 31, but he would wait for the military and the police to give their input before making his final recommendation to the President.
“Matagal nang masyado eh (It’s been too long), and we can do our job naman (anyway), especially if the Senate or Congress can pass the Human Security Act,” Lorenzana told reporters in an interview at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
The defense chief said the proposed measure would “give teeth” to law enforcement, which would be a “better arrangement” than martial law.
Mindanao has been under martial law since May 2017, when the pro-Islamic State (ISIS) Maute terror group laid siege to Marawi City. Although initially set for 60 days, martial law was extended first until the end of 2017, and then until the end of 2018, and afterwards 2019, upon President Rodrigo Duterte’s recommendation, which Congress approved each time.
Lorenzana and other security officials said at the time that martial law was necessary to curb terrorism and threats of violence from communist guerrillas.
Proposed amendments to the Human Security Act of 2007 aim to broaden the definition of terrorism, ease restrictions on surveillance, and prolong the lawful detention of terror suspects from the current 3 days to up to 60 days. Lorenzana earlier said the amendments would help the police and the military identify suspects and build stronger cases against them.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Spokesperson Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo said Davao City no longer appeared to need martial law, reiterating his earlier statement that the measure could be implemented “selectively” among different areas of Mindanao, depending on their security situation.
Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, the President’s daughter, had requested that her city be exempted from martial law.
"So far nakita naman natin, based from the observation din ng ating military commander...indeed 'yung Davao City ay na-meet na niya kung ano 'yung mga criteria kung bakit p'wede na siya na matanggal sa coverage ng martial law,” Arevalo told reporters on Monday, citing Lieutenant General Felimon Santos Jr, commander of the AFP Eastern Mindanao Command, which covers Davao City.
(So far, we see that, based on the observation of our military commander…indeed Davao City has met the criteria so as to be exempted from the coverage of martial law.)
Both Lorenzana and Arevalo said it would still be up to Duterte whether he would push to extend martial law in Mindanao, but recommendations from the military and the police will factor into his decision. – Rappler.com
JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.