Security officials are confident they can justify another one-year extension of martial law to legislators by citing the “overwhelming” support given by the people of Mindanao.
Today, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) will brief the Senate on the prevailing security situation in Mindanao and justify the recommended year-long extension of martial law.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said all senators will be briefed by the security officials.
A joint session between the Senate and the House of Representatives is expected within the week after President Duterte submitted the recommendation to Congress last Friday.
“We got resolutions from all of them (local government units [LGU] in Mindanao) and then passed them to all congressmen from Mindanao,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.
Asked what is his expectation from the Senate, Lorenzana replied: “We are confident that they, at least the majority, will support the extension.”
Col. Noel Detoyato, AFP-Public Affairs Office chief, also expressed confidence that the military can convince the lawmakers.
“We are very confident about our recommendation. We leave it to the wisdom of the lawmakers,” Detoyato said.
He stressed the AFP and PNP joint recommendation on the extension of martial law was based on the “overwhelming support” by Mindanaoans.
“Our basis is the overwhelming sentiment of the people and LGU officials in Mindanao,” Detoyato, who is from Mindanao, said.
The military cited the threat from terrorist groups as another factor for its recommendation.
According to Lorenzana, there are about 10 foreign terrorists, experts in bomb-making and propaganda, were monitored to be in Mindanao.
However, he maintained the Defense department and the AFP could cut short the one-year extension if the security situation improves.
“By middle of next year, if we find the situation there is good, we will give the necessary recommendation,” said Lorenzana, who is also from Mindanao.
Sen. Manny Pacquiao, who is from General Santos City, said he supports the extension of martial law, citing the benefits of military rule to the peace and order situation in Mindanao.
“There is no problem if there is an extension of martial law in Mindanao. It will be better for us because our people have a positive reaction,” Pacquiao said.
For his part, Sen. Richard Gordon said, “What I want to hear tomorrow (today) is if there is really imminent threat.”
As a former mayor, Gordon said President Duterte has all the intelligence reports from various agencies to base his recommendation.
Sen. Gregorio Honasan, chair of the Senate Committee on Defense, said he will listen to the AFP briefing.
“We will have to listen to them first because they are in possession of the data that will warrant such a recommendation. So, we will just find out if these data have basis,” Honasan said.
Other senators are also open to the extension but would wait for today’s briefing by security officials regarding the matter before deciding on it.
PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Benigno Durana said an extension is needed since attacks from rebel groups are expected to intensify during the election period.
We are confident that they, at least the majority, will support the extension.
Durana added it was four months ago that the police launched several counter measures to prevent and reduce election-related violent incidents, such as assassinations, extortions and kidnap-for-ransom activities undertaken by the New People’s Army (NPA).
Mr. Duterte placed Mindanao under martial law on 23 May 2017 due to a terrorist attack in Marawi City. It was initially imposed for 60 days. Then, Congress upon the President’s request approved an extension twice, the latest of which will end on 31 December.
The ongoing martial law also resulted in more tourists, Detoyato said, adding the people in Mindanao feel secured with the visibility of military and police force in the area.
“They are satisfied with the current situation because majority of the areas in Mindanao are relatively peaceful,” Detoyato said. “The growth (in the area) became higher which resulted in investors having confidence. If security is heavy, livelihood will prosper.”
Critics are pointing out that there should be an actual invasion or rebellion for martial law to be extended.
The police official stressed the extension is based on the situation in Mindanao and the threat is very much alive. He said they are ready with the upcoming briefing with the senators this week for the proposed extension.
“We already have prepared for that. Actually, the presentation… it will be an assessment of the current situation and it depends on the people who are affected by ML,” Detoyato said.
Last week, the AFP already confirmed that they were recommending at least a one-year extension of martial law in Mindanao. With Kathleen Mae Buelquerin, Miguel Paolo Togonon
With Kathleen Mae Buelquerin, Miguel Paolo Togonon