ML plus 1 looms

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Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo. (Facebook Image)

After both the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) indicated favoring a one-year extension of martial law in Mindanao, the Palace said President Rodrigo Duterte will likely seek it while the House gave an assurance that it will be granted.

Mr. Duterte said he is waiting for the recommendation to study it.

“The papers have not yet been submitted to me. The issue has not been raised. It might be (raised) during the Cabinet meeting,” the President said at the sidelines of the conferment of the Quezon Service Cross on the late Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago.

“It will depend on the recommendation of the military and the police. They are the guys on the ground,” Mr. Duterte said on the possibility of his seeking an extension.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Carlito Galvez said the extension of martial rule for another year, the third time it will be stretched, is needed because of the “lurking” threat of terrorism.

He said the military’s recommendation for a one-year extension would be forwarded anytime soon to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who will then submit the proposal to Mr. Duterte.

“We have recommendation already… everybody — the local government units and even the Comelec (Commission on Elections) and other agencies are recommending for an extension of at least one year,” said Galvez.

“Our position was based on a clamor for the extension considering that the terrorism is still lurking in the area,” he added.

House Majority Floor Leader Rolando Andaya said the House will support an extended martial law as long as Mr. Duterte asks for it.

It shall be given

“If the President will ask for it, then chances are it shall be given,” Andaya said.

“The concurrence will be expedited if the military and the police will renew their commitment to respect the constitutional rights of every individual in the territory covered by the declaration,” he added.

The lawmaker said that the inputs and views of the representatives of districts in Mindanao “will carry much weight during the deliberations.”

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Dir. Gen. Oscar Albayalde said the PNP’s position is consistent in that martial law in Mindanao is still needed.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Mr. Duterte will “always evaluate whatever recommendations that the AFP and PNP will give him,” but given the situation in the region and the views of the military and the police, “the President may be persuaded to grant to approve the recommendation.”

Panelo said that the safety of the people in Mindanao will be Duterte’s basis in making his decision.

Military rule in Mindanao expires at the end of the year. The region was placed under martial law in May 2017 after Islamic State (IS)-inspired terrorists laid siege on Marawi City that lasted for five months.

It was extended by Congress on 23 July to 31 December 2017. A second extension, this time for a full year, was granted by both chambers on 13 December 2017.

Limiting terror space

“There is a need to constrict and limit the maneuver space of the terrorists to the maximum. We have a very weak terrorism law, so with that martial law is needed to completely defeat the terrorism,” Galvez said.

The AFP chief, however, stressed that the military’s recommendation is limited to Mindanao only.

“It will not be expanded, it will only be in Mindanao,” he said.
Apart from the threat from terrorists, Galvez also cited the upcoming midterm elections in May 2019 as among the factors in the military recommendation.

Consultations set

Should Mr. Duterte accede to the security cluster’s recommendations, he will once again course it through the House of Representatives and the Senate who, Panelo said, are the sole authorities to approve or turn down the proposed extension of military rule in Mindanao.

“Again, the Constitution grants them the authority to decide whether or not it will extend martial law. So, we’ll leave it to them,” the Palace official stated.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III have previously said Malacañang must be able to present strong, convincing arguments before the Upper and Lower Houses for lawmakers to yield to another request of extending martial law.

Galvez cited recent bombing attacks in Basilan, Isulan, Maguindanao and General Santos City and the encounter in Sulu as indications that the problem of terrorism still persists.

With Hananeel Bordey, Kathleen Mae Bulquerin and Mario J. Mallari

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