MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said it favors the lifting of martial law in parts of Mindanao, particularly Davao City, as recommended by its mayor, Sara Duterte.
"We have articulated our support to selective coverage of martial law as deemed warranted by the local chief executive and validated by our operational commanders on the ground," AFP spokesperson Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo said in a statement on Tuesday, October 15.
Arevalo was reacting to Duterte's proposal to Congress and the Department of National Defense for the city's exemption from martial law.
The Davao City mayor is the daughter of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Mindanao, which includes Davao City, has been under martial law since May 2017, when the pro-Islamic State (ISIS) Maute terror group laid siege to Marawi City.
Originally set to expire on December 31, 2017, the imposition of martial law in Mindanao was repeatedly extended by Congress upon the insistence of the Duterte administration, citing security threats from terrorists and communist insurgents.
Congress will decide yet again whether to extend martial law in Mindanao before it expires at the end of the year.
In his statement, Arevalo said AFP Eastern Mindanao Command chief Lieutenant General Felimon Santos Jr "has expressed his support for the lifting of martial law" in Davao City as the presidential daughter recommended.
In a separate media interview, Santos said Davao City's peace and security situation is "okay," and that its barangays have been cleared of threats.
AFP Western Mindanao Command chief Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana likewise said in a media interview that parts of Mindanao like Davao City and Cagayan de Oro City no longer need martial law.
However, both generals said threats from terrorists and communist insurgents remain in other parts of Mindanao, which they said still require the continued enforcement of martial law.
Sobejana said he would recommend keeping the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao under martial law because of the presence of terror groups like the Abu Sayyaf, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and remnants of the Maute.
But ultimately, the final word on martial law in Mindanao – whether it would be lifted, reduced, or maintained – will come from the President, Arevalo said. – 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.