The Philippine military chief said Tuesday that he had recommended extending martial law in the south by another year to suppress threats from militants linked to Islamic State (IS) extremists.
The militants still threatened the Mindanao region, said armed forces chief of staff Gen. Carlito Galvez, who noted several recent bombings carried out on Basilan island and Isulan city that left 14 people dead, including 11 killed in a car-bomb explosion.
Militants who escaped from southern Marawi city when the military reclaimed it in October 2017 were known to have joined forces with smaller groups in Mindanao, adding to the danger, he said.
“We have recommendations already. We see that all security experts in the regions and also the local government units and other agencies are recommending for extension of at least one year,” Galvez said.
“Year-long martial law extension is recommended so that we can substantially make a significant dent against terrorism,” he added.
Previously, President Rodrigo Duterte indicated that he was considering extending martial law in the south because, he said, military rule effectively kept IS-linked militants at bay.
The martial law that is in force is to expire later this month. It is an extension of military rule imposed in the south that allowed the military to defeat militants who took over Marawi during five months last year.
“There is really a clamor for the extension considering the terrorists are still lurking in the area,” Galvez said.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte had yet to approve another extension of martial law.
“If the threat remains and there is still an ongoing rebellion, then, constitutionally, the basis would be valid for continuation of martial law,” he said.
No constitutional basis: Opposition politician
Rep. Edcel Lagman, a congressman in the opposition, questioned the need to extend military rule again in the south, criticizing the military chief’s proposal for its “wanton absence of constitutional basis.”
Lagman said the constitution requires the presence of a rebellion and the need for public safety as a basis for martial law.
“Rebellion does not persist in Mindanao and, consequently, public safety is not imperiled,” he said. “It is President Duterte who is vested with the initiative for the extension of martial law and he has not communicated to the congress his desire to prolong the martial law regime in Mindanao.”
“The justification of Galvez that there is public clamor for the extension is flawed because popular clamor is not a grounds for martial law or its extension. Moreover, the alibi that ‘terrorists are still lurking in the area’ also is not a basis for extension because terrorism is not rebellion and the threat of terrorism, like the imminent threat of rebellion, is not a constitutional ground for martial law,” Lagman said.