HOUSING czar Eduardo del Rosario, who is delegated as chairperson of Task Force Bangon Marawi, expressed support on Friday, December 31, for the possible extension of martial rule in Mindanao.
Del Rosario raised apprehension over the looming security threats from extremist groups, amid the government's efforts to restore peace and order in Marawi City, home to 200,000 residents who were displaced during the war that erupted between the government troops and Maute militants inspired by global terror group Islamic State.
He feared that the purported massive recruitment of IS-affiliated Maute group after their defeat in Marawi battle might impede the ongoing rehabilitation efforts in the devastated city.
"Personally, I would like that martial law will continue during the rehabilitation phase because as chairman of Task Force Bangon Marawi, my main concern is the security of the whole rehabilitation effort," Del Rosario told Palace reporters.
"Just imagine if something will happen in Marawi City during the rehabilitation phase, contractors and laborers might no longer come there. It will be difficult for us during the rehabilitation phase," he added.
President Rodrigo Duterte was forced to declare martial law in Mindanao after Maute extremists, along with some foreign fighters, attacked Marawi City in Lanao del Sur province, in an attempt to establish caliphate for IS' Southeast Asia group.
The 60-day promulgation of Mindanao ended on July 22 but was extended by Congress until December 31, 2017, in an effort to completely quell insurgency.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana declared on October 23 that the five-month war between the Philippine state troops and IS-linked terrorists was over, following the deaths of infamous extremist leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute.
On November 18, Duterte said the lifting of martial law in the entire Mindanao would depend on the recommendation of the state forces.
The Commander-in-Chief said he would "heavily" rely on the soldiers and policemen's proposal, with regard to the neccessity to end or extend the implementation of military rule.
"You know, declaration of martial law is always dependent on what the armed forces and the police recommend," Duterte said during the November 18 interview in Davao City.
"They are the two entities that would be relied upon heavily by a President or a head of state when you entertain something like extreme measures -- martial law, state of emergency," he added.
Joining Del Rosario at the press briefing, Lanao del Sur Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong emphasized that end of Marawi crisis could not ensure the total restoration of the strife-torn city.
Adiong likewise alluded that Maute group might take advantage of the government's "leniency" to be able to recruit new members.
"Actually, we've been saying this all along the crisis will really start after the war. And there are several reports that we've been receiving that the recruitment activity is now ongoing in some other towns," Adiong siad.
"So we fear that if we probably be lenient about imposing security protocols, the terror group might use this as a portal to form and regroup again and then attack another town, which basically, that's what we've been saying all along. They will attack another town, necessarily Marawi City or Lanao del Sur, but you know, maybe some provinces," he added.
Del Rosario said Task Force Bangon Marawi would coordinate with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) so they would be able to make necessary recommendation on the possible extension of the martial law.
While he sought to extend martial law in Mindanao, Del Rosario said it would still be up to the military and police forces whether such extension is necessary.
"It depends on the assessment of the AFP, PNP. Because I, chair of the Task Force Bangon Marawi, I only assess the rehabilitation phase. But the AFP and PNP, they assess the whole situation," Del Rosario said.
"So if ever, it will be extended and the recommendation will officially come from the AFP and the PNP. Definitely, (I support the extension of martial law)," he added. (SunStar Philippines)