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Senators doubt ML brings peace to Mindanao

Senators on Thursday raised doubts that extending martial law in Mindanao would bring peace to the island.

For Senator Panfilo Lacson, it is not martial law that would ensure peace in Mindanao, but a better inclusive security plan that includes talking to all disgruntled groups on the island.

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Not even the new Bangsamoro Organic Law, the product of a peace deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), would be sufficient, Lacson said.

Lacson spoke after a bomb exploded in Isulan town, Sultan Kudarat, on Tuesday night, killing three people and wounding 36 others.

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The military is blaming the blast on the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea floated the idea of extending martial law in Mindanao—in effect since May 2017 and would lapse on Dec. 31—after the bombing.

President’s call

Commenting on Medialdea’s idea, House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya on Thursday said the House leadership would support an extension of martial law in Mindanao if President Duterte asked for it.

Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo told reporters she would back a request for extension from Mr. Duterte.

“I’ll support what the President does because I’ve been President and I believe that he does not need a peanut gallery to tell him what to do,” Arroyo told reporters in Floridablanca, Pampanga, on Thursday.

But Lacson suggested that the National Security Council and the security forces “take a hard look at their security plans and strategy, especially in the south, and try to avert the vicious cycle of talking peace with one tribal group while alienating the others.”

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Lacson noted that the MILF had become a dominant force in Mindanao after the government forged peace with the Moro National Liberation Front.

“As it may be shaping now, as we make peace with the MILF, a breakaway group is sowing terror,” he said.

Good police work

Senator Francis Pangilinan said he saw no reason to extend martial law.

“The existing martial law proclamation failed to prevent the bombing, so why would an extension prevent a future bombing?” Pangilinan said.

Good police work is needed to catch the perpetrators, he said.

If necessary, the armed forces could also be called out without declaring martial law, he said.

“Up until now, the region is stricken by hunger due to the rice crisis and high prices of commodities. This requires immediate action, and martial law extension is definitely not [part of it],” Pangilinan added.

Defense officials’ briefing

Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, who is from Mindanao, said he wanted first to hear an explanation justifying any proposal to extend martial law.

Pimentel said he also wanted to know how effective the current martial law declaration had been in keeping peace and order on the island.

“[Defense officials] must give a briefing. What’s happening? What have they done? How come, in spite of martial law being imposed in Mindanao, such an explosion in Sultan Kudarat happened?” Pimentel said.

Human rights group Karapatan slammed Malacañang’s statement and Arroyo’s support for an extension of martial law in the aftermath of the Isulan blast.

“While the bombing … is a deplorable act, it is equally appalling that Duterte and his minions are now using the situation to justify the intensification of military attacks on communities in Mindanao through the extension of the martial law declaration,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.—WITH A REPORT FROM MELVIN GASCON

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TAGS: Bangsamoro, BIFF, BOL, Bombing, Isulan, Local news, Martial law, Nation, national news, News, peace, Philippine news updates, Regions, Security, Sultan Kudarat, Terrorism
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