AFP, PNP to recommend another extension of Mindanao martial law

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 3) — The military and police will recommend to President Rodrigo Duterte another extension of martial law in Mindanao for at least one year.

Gen. Carlito Galvez, Armed Forces chief, on Monday said they based their recommendation on continuous bombings in parts of the South and public clamor for military rule in the region.

Martial law in Mindanao will be in effect until December 31, but Galvez said the possible third extension is necessary to make a "substantially significant dent on terrorism."

"We have recommendations already...  Because there is really a great clamor for the extension, considering that the terrorism is still lurking in the area. There is really need to constrict, limit the maneuver space of the terrorist to the maximum," he told defense reporters.

But Duterte, in a speech Monday, said he's yet to come up with a decision on the possible extension.

"The papers have not yet been submitted to me. It might be during the Cabinet (meeting)," Duterte told reporters in a chance interview.

The country's chief executive reiterated he will base his decision on the personnel on the ground.

"It would depend on the recommendation of the military and police. They are the guys on the ground. I'm not aware of the nitty gritty happenings all over the country," Duterte added.

Galvez said they have yet to submit their recommendation to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. He said the recommendation may be presented during his retirement on December 12.

Director General Oscar Albayalde, Philippine National Police chief, on Monday also said the recommendation for an extension has been drafted.

"Alam ko meron na kaming recommendation that we are for the extension especially so, the upcoming election and the plebiscite. We are one with the Armed Forces of the Philippines. We are for the extension," he said in a separate media briefing.

House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo earlier said she will be behind the extension, while Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III challenged the AFP to present the supposed "gains" earned while Mindanao was under martial law.

Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III said the Congress should be properly briefed before voting on granting the extension.

"Dapat kung mayroon mang request for extension, there should be a briefing. Bakit justified pa after one year and seven months? Truth be told, kapag ako naman ay nagtatanog sa mga kapwa ko taga-Mindanao, wala akong naririnig na violent o vehement objection against martial law. Open pa nga yung iba eh. Pero from the point of view of the legislator who will give his consent, kailangan po i-briefing naman kami to know of the justification," he said.

(Translation: There should be a briefing if there's a request for extension. Why is it still justified after a year and seven months? Truth be told, when I asked my fellow people from Mindanao, I haven't heard any violent or vehement objection against martial law. Others are even open. But from the point of view of the legislator who will give his consent, we need briefing for us to know of the justification.)    

Martial law has been in place in Mindanao for a year and seven months, after Congress granted Duterte's request for an extension twice to quell threats of rebellion amid efforts to rehabilitate Marawi City. Marawi is the provincial capital of Lanao del Sur that was the battleground of terrorists and government forces in May to October 2017. More than a thousand were killed, mostly terrorists.

Some human rights groups claim the military committed human rights violations during the implementation of martial law. Malacañang and the armed forces vowed to investigate these alleged abuses, but noted that no formal complaint has been filed.

Solons warn vs. extended martial law

The militant Makabayan Bloc opposed the AFP's recommendation. Bayan Muna Partylist Carlos Zarate warned that putting the military in control of Mindanao much longer will lead to more human rights abuses.

He cited the recent detention of ACT Teachers Partylist Representative France Castro and former Congressman Satur Ocampo for alleged kidnapping and human trafficking as proof that the military is abusing martial law.

"Malinaw na itong panukala na i-extend na naman ang martial law sa Mindanao, ito ay magbubunsod ng mas marami pang paglabag sa karapatang pantao. At sa katunayan, kung papabayaan natin ang militar at pulis, hindi na lang Mindanao ang gusto nilang ilagay sa batas militar kundi ang buong bansa na," he said in a media briefing.

(Translation: It's clear that this recommendation to extend martial law in Mindanao will create more human rights violations. In fact, if we allow the military and police, they would place not only Mindanao, but the entire country under martial law.)

Zarate warned extending martial law anew might embolden the AFP to ask Duterte to widen its scope nationwide.

Galvez also assured the public martial law will not be expanded nationwide. Duterte on November 22 ordered the deployment of more police and military personnel in parts of southern Luzon and the Visayas to prevent what it called "lawless violence" from "spreading and escalating elsewhere in the country."

Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano said the government should only use martial law for emergencies and for temporary cases. He also warned of security and economic implications of another extension.

"The mere fact that there is a clamor for its extension means the normal security forces are ineffective in countering terrorism. On the other hand, from an economic perspective, extending martial law will drive away existing and potential investors and businesses," he said.

The former soldier urged the Duterte administration to approach the problem of insurgency by hearing out the insurgent groups.

CNN Philippines senior correspondent David Santos contributed to this report.