Extending duration of martial law in Mindanao 'won't hurt' – senator

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 22) — An extension of martial law in Mindanao by "a few weeks" can be granted if the military needs it, said Senator Joseph Victor "JV" Ejercito on Thursday.

"If the Armed Forces say that they are almost close to apprehending or crushing the rebellion, then what's a few more days?" Ejercito told CNN Philippines' The Source.

"So that the Armed Forces will have all the instruments needed to crush the rebellion as soon as possible, then a few days, probably a few weeks would not hurt anymore – so I'm willing to grant that in case if the Armed Forces ask for it," said the senator, who is also a member of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security.

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23 when the Daesh/ISIS-inspired Maute Group attempted to overrun Marawi City, the capital of the province of Lanao del Sur. The month-long conflict has hit a death toll of over 300 and displaced 200,000 residents.

Under the 1987 Constitution, martial law can only last 60 days. Congress must also vote jointly to either revoke or extend the declaration.

Petitioners have raised their concerns to the Supreme Court since Congress shut down moves to convene in a joint session to discuss martial law.

Related: Martial law petitioners, gov't to submit final arguments on June 19

Ejercito and 14 other senators supported the President's martial law declaration. On June 13, he expressed support for an extension of martial rule.

He reiterated on Thursday a call for a second briefing by security and defense officials for senators to "have a better grasp... of the situation on the ground so that it will help us decide whether to grant the extension or to revoke martial law."

Ejercito argued that unrest in Mindanao due to the Marawi siege was affecting the economic situation and driving away investments.

He also added that the Maute are "not ordinary bandits, but... terrorists [who] have international support."

Opposition senators previously pointed out that defense officials did not even recommend the declaration of martial law, as relayed to them in a closed door briefing at the Senate. On May 31, Duterte also confirmed that no one recommended the declaration, but he was convinced it was necessary due to the information they relayed to him.

Related: No one recommended martial law declaration - Duterte

Ejercito, who is chairman  of the Senate Committee on Urban Planning, Housing, and Resettlement, also said the ₱10 billion government proposal for Marawi City's rebuilding and rehabilitation "would be very good."

He added they are looking into providing "decent housing" for police and military personnel.