By Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos
President Duterte has made up his mind on extending martial law in Mindanao for another year and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea confirmed last night that Malacañang will transmit the request to Congress today.
In a text message to Palace reporters, Medialdea confirmed that Duterte will formally make the recommendation to Congress before the Legislative Branch goes into its Christmas break on December 15.
“There is already a letter but I don’t know if delivered already. Recommendation is one year,” Medialdea’s text message read.
House Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas told reporters that Medialdea had already informed him that the letter will be delivered today to both the Senate and House of Representatives for their immediate action.
“Text of ES Medialdea to me while I was discussing some bills with him: By the way, letter extension of ML signed by PRRD will be delivered tomorrow to the House and Senate,” Fariñas told House reporters through Viber.
Fariñas said Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez assured that the matter will be given due attention.
“I, of course, relayed it first to the Speaker who said we will discuss it tomorrow,” he said.
If extended for another year, Medialdea said that martial law will still cover the entire island of Mindanao, just like the original proclamation of the President last May.
“Yes (it will cover entire Mindanao). Letter will be out tomorrow (sic),” Medialdea said in a text message.
Medialdea’s confirmation came just hours after Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that Duterte was assessing the need to extend martial law in Mindanao as recommended by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).
“PRRD’s paramount concern is the security of our people especially the Mindanaoans in the face of threats and the use of available means under the law to fight them,” Roque said in a statement earlier yesterday.
Duterte declared martial law in the entire island of Mindanao last May 23 when the war against the Daesh-inspired terrorists led by the Maute group erupted.
When the 60-day implementation, as provided by the 1987 Constitution lapsed last July 22, 2017, the Congress granted Duterte’s recommendation to extend it until the end of the year.
As the Mindanao martial law nears its expiration, Duterte said that he will heed the advice of the government forces, especially those on the ground, as they are the ones who know the real situation in the island.
Support for ML
Deputy Speaker and Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro and Isabela Rep. Rodito Albano threw all-out support to the possible extension of martial law in Mindanao.
“I support the possible extension not because the threat is still there but, actual hostilities against by allied terrorists are still there. Martial law should be given the chance to complete its purpose,” Castro said.
“If there’s a need to eradicate these lawless elements using the AFP then why not.This is the time to do it with the AFP in high morale.. Support of the civilians to soldiers is at their peak,” Albano, for his part.
The AFP earlier explained that it is seeking for an extension due to reports of terrorist recruitment, increase in violent incidents involving the New People’s Army (NPA), and the existence of armed groups including the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
“The increasing violence initiated by the Left is part of the reason why martial law may be needed in order to cover areas where potential terrorists may be hiding,” former AFP spokesperson Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla earlier explained.
He also said that terrorists who survived the Marawi siege still remain at large and are attempting to recover by recruiting other members, particularly children, students, women, and even family members of terrorists killed during the five-month war, through huge amounts of cash.
“We still face significant violent activities that are possible from the groups of the BIFF over in Maguindanao, Lanao and Cotabato as well as the threats brought about by the continued existence of ASG forces in the islands of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi,” Padilla also said.
The AFP, however, assured the public that there will be no human rights abuses under their watch in case Congress grants the second extension of martial law in Mindanao. (With a report from Francis T. Wakefield)