THE Philippines remains safe, even though lawless groups continue to commit violence and sow fear in Mindanao despite the imposition of martial law, Malacañang said on Friday, October 11.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo gave the assurance, even as he admitted that martial rule in Mindanao could not totally suppress the unlawful acts perpetrated by armed groups.

“Syempre safe (Of course, it is still safe),” Panelo told Palace reporters, when asked if the Philippines is still safe.

Suicide bombing attacks still hound Mindanao, where extended martial law is being implemented. One of the suicide bombers was even believed to be a Filipino, the first confirmed case in the Philippine history.

Kidnapping incidents in the southern portion of the country also persist, with a British national and his Filipino wife who owned a beach resort in Tukuran, Zamboanga del Sur being the latest victims of abductors.

Panelo said such incidents could not be avoided.

But he emphasized that military rule in Mindanao helped reduce the number of crimes in the besieged region.

“Accidents happen. Kung minsan nalulusutan pa rin (It’s possible to slip past government troops sometimes),” the Palace official said.

“Given na two years na 'yung martial law doon at mukhang 'yung number of crimes eh halos wala maliban dito sa bago ngayon, ibig sabihin effective. You can just imagine kung walang martial law, baka hindi lang 'yun. But just the same, the authorties are doing their level best to protect the inhabitants there,” he added.

(Given that martial law is being implemented there for two years now, there was a significant decline in the number of crimes there. It means martial law is effective. But just the same, the authorities are doing their level best to protect the inhabitants there.)

Duterte placed Mindanao under martial law on May 23, 2017 after fighting erupted in Marawi City.

Congress extended the 60-day martial rule thrice upon the President’s recommendation to help state forces end insurgency in Mindanao.

The martial law is set to lapse on December 31, 2019.

Panelo said ground forces in the southern Philippines have yet to make a recommendation on whether to extend or lift the declaration of martial law.

On July 25, Duterte said he was amenable to National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.'s earlier proposal of extending the martial law declaration in Mindanao for another year, that is the only solution to thwart terror acts in the besieged region.

“You know Mindanao continues to be a problem. I am not advocating for any continuance of the martial law," Duterte said in a July 25 speech.

"But if the local government units, the governors, mayors and even congressmen, would find it that it would be to the best interest of the Filipino in Mindanao, I would not hesitate to say yes," he added. (SunStar Philippines)