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Davao City wants out of martial law coverage

/ 05:00 AM August 08, 2019

SOLDIERS IN DAVAO’S MIDST Soldiers patrol the premises of San Pedro Cathedral as residents of Davao City go about their daily routines amid the declaration of martial law in Mindanao. —BING GONZALES

DAVAO CITY, Davao del Sur, Philippines — The city council on Tuesday approved a resolution asking President Rodrigo Duterte to exempt Davao City from the coverage of martial law in Mindanao.

The move came days after Mayor Sara Duterte, the President’s daughter, broached the idea during an interview by Pastor Apollo Quiboloy last week.

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Duterte noted the negative impact of the martial law declaration on the city’s business, trade and investments.

The declaration of martial law in Mindanao was prompted by the siege of Marawi City by the Islamic State-linked Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups in 2017.

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The entire island of Mindanao has been under martial law since May 23, 2017, when the five-month Marawi siege and fighting started. There have been three extensions granted by Congress: from July 18, 2017 to Dec. 31, 2017; from Dec. 31, 2017 to Dec. 31, 2018; and from Dec. 31, 2018 to Dec. 31 this year.

“I think Mayor Sara conferred with the business sector because martial law has its cost,” said Councilor Maria Belen Acosta, chair of the committee on peace and public safety who sponsored the resolution.

Acosta cited the high insurance premiums paid by companies already operating and planning to invest in Davao and the impact of travel advisories issued by foreign governments, among others.

Cost of doing business

Duterte, during an Aug. 2 televised interview with Quiboloy, cited her previous discussions with diplomats who said that apart from casting a negative image on the President’s home city, the declaration of martial law also raised the cost of doing business here.

Duterte pointed out that the city government’s assessment showing that security measures were already in place and its “very good” coordination with the security sector.

Acosta said the proposed lifting of martial law in Davao City had the backing of the military.

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She cited a July 16 letter from Lt. Gen. Felimon Santos, commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command, who supported the proposed exemption of Davao as long as all security forces were in place and existing security measures and initiatives would remain operational to prevent terrorist groups from staging an attack.

Police Brig. Gen. Marcelo Morales, Davao regional police chief, also endorsed the measure, noting the decreasing criminality in the city.

The group Konsensya Dabaw hailed the city government’s move to call for the lifting of martial law as it urged other local governments to follow the city’s lead.

‘Unnecessary’

“We laud the Davao City Council for confirming what many Mindanawans already know but have not been able to articulate under a cloud of uncertainties: that martial law in Mindanao is not only unnecessary but also has its negative effects,” said Mags Maglana, coconvener of Konsensya Dabaw, which is composed of survivors of the martial law regime of Ferdinand Marcos.

In Manila, an official of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said the agency was open to selectively impose martial rule on problem areas in Mindanao

In an interview on Wednesday over CNN Philippines, DILG spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said local officials and civil society organizations in Mindanao had held informal talks and “were all unanimous in requesting the President to again ask Congress for declaration of martial law.”

“But I think a compromise can be made by lifting it [martial law] in some areas, limiting the martial law declaration only to those areas which still have big peace and order problems,” Malaya said.

In a text message to the Inquirer, he said: “Our official position is this: per advice of [Interior] Secretary Eduardo Año, we are open to the selective lifting of martial law.”

“We will make an assessment first and then make the necessary recommendation to the President,” he said. —With a report from Jeannette I. Andrade

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TAGS: Davao City, Mindanao martial law, Sara Duterte-Carpio
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