By Genalyn Kabiling
Martial law declaration in Mindanao may be lifted once a stronger anti-terror law is passed by Congress, a Palace official said Wednesday.
But for now, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said President Duterte has turned down calls for a partial lifting of martial law, particularly in Davao City, citing the importance to pass amendments to Republic Act No. 9372 or the Human Security Act of 2007 to better address security concerns.
The anti-terror law amendment is one of the administration priority measures to be raised in the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) next month.
“Ngayon, nandito na yung pagkakataon na hindi na natin kailangan, I mean ibig sabhin ma-institutionalize na natin ang mag amendments na kinakailangan natin sa anti-terrorism law, then that way mas malaki ang chances na ma-lift din natin ang martial law even in Mindanao [Now, we have an opportunity that we don’t need, I mean, we can institutionalize the amendments needed in the anti-terrorism law, then that way there is a bigger chance that we will lift martial law in Mindanao],” Nograles said during the Kapihan sa Manila Bay Wednesday.
“Kasi right now, pinag-uusapan, ang Davao City Council in fact asked martial law be lifted particularly in Davao and the President said no. Because the President understands na we need to come up with the long term soon to this and the long term solution is the amendment to the Human Security Act,” he added.
The Department of National Defense earlier proposed amendments to the law including allowing a longer period for the detention and wiretapping of terror suspects. The proposals were made to strengthen the government’s capacity to build cases against the suspects.
According to Nograles, the Cabinet security cluster acknowledged that a stronger anti-terror law would no longer necessitate the extension of martial law. He added they even offered to recommend to the President to lift martial law if the amendments are passed.
“If we want to institutionalize our anti-terror and internal security, then for the long term, looking at the long term, the amendments to the Human Security Act are priority and will suffice,” he said.
He recalled that the strengthening of the anti-terror law was tackled when the concerned Cabinet officials met lawmakers to seek the extension of martial law in the south this year.
“They were asking, ‘Paano ba ito? Extend na lang tayo nang extend ng martial law.’ So yung security cluster mentioned na Sir, kung i-amend na lang ninyo ang Human Security Act, lagyan natin ng mas magandang ngipin, stronger, we will not need the extension of martial law,” he said.
“Kung i-amend ninyo ang Human Security Act, strengthen na lang natin ang Human Security, we will not anymore need martial law,” he added.
Martial law has remained in effect in Mindanao since the Marawi City siege by local terror elements in 2017. The martial law declaration, imposed by the President, has been extended until the end of the year.