An era of peace had prompted strong support for martial law in Mindanao and a clamor for its extension, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Oscar Albayalde said yesterday.
Residents of Mindanao have stated their overwhelming support to a longer martial law term which, based on actual data culled by the PNP, resulted in lower crime rate and an improved security environment.
At a press briefing in Camp Crame, Albayalde said “based on our statistics, in 2017 the average monthly crime rate in Mindanao was at 8.79 percent. Now, from January to September alone, it went down to 5.92 percent.”
“So, we can attribute that basically to the imposition of martial law,” he added.
The favorable view on President Duterte’s martial law by the people of Mindanao clearly indicated there was no abuse committed by government security forces, he said.
“Based on public feedback, residents like martial law in Mindanao. They want it extended,” Albayalde said.
“If ever the President decides to extend it, we fully support that because what we see here is the improvement on peace and order,” he added.
The final say on the proposed martial law extension was given to the Executive Committee of the National Security Council (EC-NSC) which Mr. Duterte convened last week.
“Taking into account the lingering terrorist and communist threats, the EC-NSC committed to put into study the possible lifting or further extension of martial law,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said.
Panelo said among the factors initially considered during the EC-NSC meeting was the outlook of the people of Mindanao, an overwhelming majority of whom support martial law “in view of the present situation they are in.”
He said the facilitation that martial law extension will bring to the Marawi rehabilitation, as well as regaining normalcy in Mindanao and indispensable constitutional and legal factors have also been considered by the panel.
Public order improved
Albayalde cited latest data gathered by the PNP showing the improvement in overall peace and order situation in the southern Philippines since the President declared martial law in May 2017.
He stressed the proper implementation of martial law by the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) won the support of Mindanaoans.
“There’s no oppression going on there as some people alleged….there is no curtailment of freedom, nothing,” Albayalde said.
Both the PNP and the AFP are currently assessing the situation in Mindanao to help Duterte determine whether to seek a martial law extension.
Earlier, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the AFP will conduct ground investigation during the whole of November before coming up with a recommendation.
Lorenzana, however, hinted on what could be the military recommendation citing two major activities in Mindanao next year which are the January plebiscite for the Bangsamoro Organic Law and the mid-term elections in May.
2019 factored in
Albayalde echoed Lorenzana’s sentiments regarding the upcoming polls next year.
“We will support the extension (of martial law) especially with the incoming elections. It will be better,” he said. Duterte declared martial law on 23 May 2017 hours after elements of the Islamic State (IS)-inspired Maute terrorist groups laid siege on Marawi City — taking dozens of civilians as hostages.
The President’s decisiveness allowed government security forces to quell the terrorists, led by Abu Sayyaf commander Isnilon Hapilon who was the designated emir of leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in Southeast Asia.
More than 1,000 terrorists, government troops and civilians were killed during the five-month conflict.
Initially, the martial law declaration was only for six months but Congress approved a one-year extension of the rule which will expire on 31 December. The President said he will await the recommendation of the PNP and AFP.
Left-wing group charged
Albayalde added the Sagay City Police in Negros Occidental had filed abduction charges against left-wing group Karapatan for taking custody of a 14-year-old witness in the massacre of nine farmers in Sagay City, Negros Occidental.
He said the group took custody of the minor illegally since none of the members of the group is a relative.
“According to the report of the DO (Directorate for Operations), kidnapping charges were filed against members of Karapatan,” he said at a press briefing.
The PNP earlier filed multiple murder cases against suspects who recruited the nine farmers to join the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW).
The police earlier said that the group is a legal front of the New People’s Army but the NFSW has denied this claim.