Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Tuesday that there is no need to reimpose martial law in Sulu province as proposed by a military official following the twin explosions in its capital Jolo yesterday.
Senators Panfilo Lacson and Richard Gordon also shared the view that martial law is not anymore necessary due to the presence of the anti-terrorism act.
At least 16 died due to the twin blast in Jolo, Sulu on Monday, which include seven soldiers, six civilians, a policeman and two female suicide bombers. Some 80 others were also hurt in the attack.
Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana, commanding general of the Philippine Army, said he would recommend to Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to bring back martial law in the province to supposedly improve the security situation and prevent the group behind the attack from escaping the area.
But Sotto said: “No need. [The] Anti-rerror law is already in place.” Sotto pointed out that this was one of the reasons that the Senate had passed Republic Act 11479, the Anti-Terrorism Act.
Senators Panfilo Lacson and Richard Gordon also shared the view that martial law is not anymore necessary due to the recent enactment of the anti-terrorism act.
Mindanao was placed under martial law for over two years after the Islamic State-inspired Maute militant group launched it attacks to Marawi city in May 2017. The imposition lasted until December 31, 2019 as security officials observed that the situation had improved.
Earlier, Lorenzana had told senators that the enactment of the Anti-Terrorism Act will also be key in maintaining peace and security in Mindanao.
Senator Panfilo Lacson and Richard Gordon also shared the view that martial law is not anymore necessary due to the presence of the anti-terrorism act.
Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, said there are already soldiers in that area but asked why the bombings occurred although the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has intelligence funds.
He recalled that President Duterte has signed the Anti-Terrorism bill into law but its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) is still not adopted.
Lacson, chairman of the Senate national defense committee, said that a strong Anti-Terrorism Law was passed ‘’for our security forces to better address terrorism in Mindanao and the rest of the country.’’
‘’Unfortunately, amid the numerous petitions against the measure, the agencies tasked to craft the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the law have not yet issued the same which could have given our law enforcement agencies and the AFP the impetus to fully implement the law with efficacy and confidence, even proactively, as we have included even “inchoate offenses” punishable for even at the stage of planning and preparation,’’ he stressed.
‘’With all that said, another declaration of martial law in Mindanao or Sulu may not be necessary,’’ he added.
Gordon, also chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), peace could be attained in the area through economic development efforts.
He cited some of these as ‘’give jobs to the people, buy all their produce and build infrastructures, among others. These efforts might lead to no more kidnappings for ransom ‘’and it is cheaper.’’
If these are not done, according to Gordon, violence would go on. ‘’We have to stop this,’’ he added.