By Martin Sadongdong
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Monday said he is no longer inclined to recommend another extension of martial law in Mindanao, saying it has been going on for “too long.”
Nevertheless, Lorenzana said he will still wait for the recommendation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) on whether or not to extend military rule for the fourth time. Mindanao has been under martial law for over two years now.
“We are waiting for the recommendation of the Armed Forces and PNP. Depende sa kanilang (It will depend on their) recommendation but if I were asked, I will not recommend anymore the extension,” Lorenzana said.
“Masyado nang matagal, eh (It has been ongoing for too long). Parang we can do our job naman (It seems we can really do our job),” he added.
The third extension of martial law is set to expire on December 31, 2019.
Instead of another martial law extension, Lorenzana is hoping that Congress would pass instead the amended Human Security Act, which he said would give more teeth to law enforcement.
Senior administration congressmen vowed to swiftly and favorably support Lorenzana’s position to put an end to martial law in Mindanao.
Deputy Speaker Johnny Pimentel and Reps. Ruffy Biazon (PDP-Laban, Muntinlupa City); Khalid Dimaporo (PDP-Laban, Lanao del Norte) and Amihilda Sangcopan (AMIN Partylist) expressed optimism that Mindanao folk will welcome the lifting of martial law in their region.
“This comment of the Secretary of National Defense should be given serious consideration, coming from the administrator of martial law in Mindanao,” stated Biazon, vice chairman of the House Committee on National Defense.
The Department of National Defense (DND) and AFP had earlier proposed amendments to the Human Security Act of 2007, including the increase in the authorized period of detention of a suspected terrorist from three days to 30 days.
They also want to remove the P500,000 fine per day for members of security forces who may have wrongfully detained a suspected terrorist.
“That’s a better arrangement than the martial law,” Lorenzana said.
Biazon said Congress must “favorably respond” to Lorenzana’s appeal for stronger anti-terrorism laws.
“In this regard, the Senate and the House of Representatives should favorably respond to the statement of Secretary Lorenzana by ensuring the passage of the bill,” stated Biazon.
Pimentel agreed with Biazon that the final decision on whether or not martial law should be lifted rests on President Duterte.
“It’s the prerogative of the executive department. They are the ones in the position if there is still a need for martial law,” explained Pimentel.
Sangcopan and Dimaporo said they will rely on Malacanang’s decision on the issue.
“As a moro advocating for peace, it is a comforting thought that the government doesn’t see the extension of martial law as necessary and relevant, especially now when the wheels of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) are in place and rolling,” stated Sangcopan.
She said the BOL has the “capability to bring peace in Mindanao” which will finally be in place once the law is fully implemented.
Dimaporo is skeptical that the Human Security Act will provide the peace and order condition desired by Mindanaoans, saying this is not “a silver bullet” that will guarantee it.
“However, as a legislator and a Mindanaoan, I hope that we can work on a whole-of-nation solution to ending terrorism and insurgency in the region of Mindanao,” said Dimaporo.
The AFP had earlier said they would have to assess the security situation in Mindanao before giving a recommendation.
President Duterte initially placed Mindanao under the martial law on May 23, 2017 when the war between government troops and Islamic State (IS)-inspired terrorists occurred in Marawi City.
After the siege ended in October, 2017, Duterte asked that martial law be extended until the end of 2017, which the Congress approved. It was again extended up to end of 2018 and then to end of 2019. (With a report from Ben Rosario)