THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) was elated with the approval Wednesday, December 12, of its recommendation to extend martial law in Mindanao, saying it will help quell the ongoing rebellion in the south.
"We appreciate this grant that lengthens the period of martial law implementation mindful that it is impressed with enormous responsibility on the part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to quell the rebellion that persists in Mindanao and prevent lawless violence by local terrorist groups from spreading in other parts of the country," AFP spokesperson Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo said.
Congress extended for the third time the martial law and the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao until December 31, 2019 after 235 lawmakers voted in favor of it during a joint Senate and House of Representatives session Wednesday, December 12.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said during the session Wednesday that rebels and remnants of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Abu Sayyaf, and other terror groups are still in Mindanao.
"Maraming pagbobomba dyan sa Basilan, Isulan, Cotabato and Gensan (General Santos City)...Lubos na nating masupil itong mga kalaban ng bayan at makabalik tayo sa normal na pamumuhay sa Mindanao kung merong martial law," he said.
(There were a lot of bombings in Basilan, Isulan, Cotabato and General Santos City...We can only stop these attacks and give residents in Mindanao a normal life if martial law will be extended.)
Aside from quelling rebellion, Arevalo said the extension seeks "not only to sustain the economic gains owing to the peace and security in Mindanao" but also "responds to positively to the clamor of local government executives to extend martial law implementation in the island because of law and order it provides to their constituents."
Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año also said during the deliberation Wednesday that the implementation of martial rule in the south has provided a "good tool" for the military and police to do their mandate.
He said the local chief executives have been very supportive of it and cooperative in their campaign against rebel groups.
"The feedback from the people are now more positive because they now can go around without fear of being subjected by these lawless elements...They feel more secured and safer," Año said.
"If you're a good citizen, you don’t feel martial law at all," he added.
Lorenzana, meanwhile, assured the public Wednesday that the elections in Mindanao next year will be "orderly, peaceful, and honest."
“We can assure the people that the military, and the police also, will maintain peace and order and will want to have orderly, peaceful, and honest elections,” he said.
He added that President Rodrigo Duterte have been reminding soldiers in Mindanao to be neutral.
"They cannot campaign for anybody, for or against," he said in response to Senator Risa Hontiveros’s question on the military's role in the 2019 elections if Mindanao will still be under martial rule.
The military reiterated that local government units in Mindanao can function normally, and the soldiers and policemen are there to establish mobile checkpoints to maintain peace and order in the region.
The AFP and the Philippine National Police recommended to Duterte the extension of martial law in Mindanao for several reasons, such as the clamor of the Mindanaoans, the continuous illegal activities of terrorists, the upcoming Bangsamoro Organic Law plebiscite, and the upcoming midterm elections.
Martial rule was declared in Mindanao after clashes between the Maute terror group and government forces broke out in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur on May 23, 2017. (Third Anne Peralta-Malonzo/LMY/SunStar Philippines)