By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Tuesday assured the public again of the passage of the bill strengthening the country’s anti-terrorism law so there will be no need for martial law in Mindanao.
He repeated his promise after President Rodrigo Duterte reportedly decided that he will no longer be asking Congress for an extension of the imposition of martial law in Mindanao upon the advice of security and defense officials.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier recommended the lifting of military rule in the area, saying the peace-and-order situation in southern Philippines has improved, two years after the Islamic State-inspired Maute Group attacked Marawi City.
Sotto admitted having concerns on the non-extension of the Mindanao martial law, but said future attacks can be prevented by the passage of the bill that will amend the Human Security Act of 2007.
“I’m sure there will be pros and cons on the issue from Mindanao, but we can assure them that we will pass the anti-terrorism act that will give government more teeth in the area and so martial law will no longer be necessary,” the Senate chief said in a statement.
Senate Bill No. 1083, sponsored by Senate defense committee chair Senator Panfilo Lacson, is currently being discussed in plenary at the period of interpellation.
The bill clarifies the definition of terrorist acts and prolongs to 14 days, from the current three days, the detention of suspected terrorists without an arrest warrant.
The bill also proposes to penalize those who participate in the plotting of terrorist acts.
Duterte first declared martial law in Mindanao in May 23, 2017. It imposition, which was granted by Congress thrice, will expire on December 31.