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Duterte won’t extend martial law in Mindanao

President to lift two-year military rule as security advisers note weakening terrorism and extremist rebellion in the region
/ 12:38 PM December 10, 2019

Updated @ 1:57 a.m., Dec. 11, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte will no longer extend martial law in Mindanao after government forces succeeded in “weakening terrorism and extremist rebellion” in the region through the arrest and killing of leaders of local terror groups.

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The President’s decision to lift the more than two-year-old martial rule at the end of the year “shows how he responds to the situation on the ground,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a Palace briefing on Tuesday.

Martial law was first imposed on Mindanao island after Islamic State-inspired armed groups, led by the Maute brothers and leaders of Abu Sayyaf, laid siege to Marawi City in May 2017.

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Government troops quelled the siege after five months of intense airstrikes and ground offensives, but Congress approved an extension of martial law in Mindanao three times after Duterte warned that militants continued to recruit fighters and plot attacks.

Assessment

Martial law had allowed the military to establish control with measures like curfews, checkpoints and gun controls in a nation where many civilians own firearms, either legally or illegally. Suspects could also be detained for longer periods without criminal charges being filed in court.

Panelo said Duterte made the decision not to extend martial law “following the assessment of his security and defense advisers of the weakening of the terrorist and extremist rebellion.”

He said the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of National Defense, and the Philippine National Police were one in recommending not to extend the declaration, noting this was “a result of the capture or neutralization of their [terror groups’] leaders, as well as the decrease in the crime index, among the factors considered.”

“The Palace is confident on the capability of our security forces in maintaining the peace and security of Mindanao without extending martial law,” he said. “The people of Mindanao are assured that any incipient major threat in the region would be nipped in the bud.”

Attracting investors

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said he won’t recommend extending martial law.

He told Duterte that militants could no longer carry out an attack like the siege on Marawi, which left more than 1,000 mostly militants dead, along with troops and civilians, and turned the Lanao del Sur capital’s commercial and residential areas into a wasteland of burned and pock-marked buildings and houses.

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Troops have also made significant progress in efforts to defeat the decades-old communist insurgency in the region, the defense secretary said.

However, Lorenzana called for tougher amendments to the Human Security Act, saying it would be a better arrangement than martial law.

“It’s time to go back to normal, and so that we can attract more investors,” Lorenzana told the state-run PTV last week.

Agusan del Norte Rep. Lawrence Fortun said with Duterte’s decision, “reason and better judgment, as well as wise counsel of advisers and public clamor, have prevailed.”

“I hope the remaining pockets of extremist, communist, warlord lawlessness and private armies in particular areas, will be squelched for good, because their terror activities continue to occasionally disrupt peaceful citizen’s lives, prevent economic growth, and ward away investors,” Fortun added.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez thanked the president for the “wise decision,” saying the persistence of martial law in the past years “discouraged investments into Mindanao.”

“The non-extension of martial law will give normalcy and stability in our beloved island of Mindanao,” he said.

Iligan City Vice Mayor Jemar Vera Cruz said lifting martial law meant a renewed trust by investors into the security atmosphere of Mindanao.

‘Long overdue’

Drieza Lininding, chair of the Marawi-based Moro Consensus Group, said the announcement was “ long overdue but a welcome development.”

He hopes that the curfew in Marawi and Lanao del Sur will also be lifted “to ensure freedom of movement and maximize it for economic recovery.”

Cagayan de Oro Mayor Oscar Moreno said the president’s decision “reflects the administration’s confidence in the military’s preparedness.”

Cotabato City Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi said, however, that she was sad because martial law had greatly improved the city’s peace and order situation.

“We, the city officials, want martial law to be retained, but we will respect the decision of President Duterte,” Guiani-Sayadi said.

—With reports from Edwin Fernandez, Divina Suson, Richel Umel, Bong Sarmiento, Leah Agonoy, Jigger Jerusalem, AP and AFP

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Edited by KGA/atm/pdi

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TAGS: Martial law, martial law extension, Mindanao, Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte
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