(UPDATED) - The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has recommended the extension of martial law in the entire Mindanao, the military spokesperson said on Friday, December 8.
AFP spokesperson Major General Restituto Padilla Jr. said the military’s recommendation was to “similarly” back the recommendation of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to extend martial rule for a period of one year.
President Rodrigo Duterte has yet to act on the AFP and the PNP's recommendation to extend martial law further in Mindanao.
Interior and Local Government (DILG) officer-in-charge Catalino Cuy confirmed that they have endorsed the PNP's recommendation for a one-year extension of martial law in the entire Mindanao.
“We endorsed the recommendation of (the) PNP,” he said.
DILG assistant secretary Jonathan Malaya explained that the extension of the martial law is to address the continuing terror threat in the said region particularly from the remaining members of the Maute terror group and also to ensure the safety and security of the ongoing rehabilitation of the war-stricken Marawi City.
“If there is continuing threat, the rehab efforts will be stifled or hampered. Spending billions on rehab might be rendered useless the radical extremist groups are not completely neutralized. We cannot allow another Marawi to happen,” he said.
Padilla, for his part, clarified that the military's recommendation is "separate and different from the recommendation of the police." He said he was not privy to other details.
“The recommendation, I don’t have the details of as to the length, but as far as I am concerned, there is a recommendation to similarly support the recommendation of the Philippine National Police,” Padilla told Palace reporters.
“But I am not privy to the whole report and I am not at liberty to discuss whatever it is that has been placed in the recommendation, until such time that the decision has been made. It is for Mindanao area,” he added.
The entire Mindanao is presently under martial law, which was declared on May 23 shortly after fighting broke out in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur between government troops and the Maute terror group.
Under the 1987 Constitution, martial law may be declared for 60 days.
Before its expiration on July 22, Congress - upon the recommendation of the President - extended martial law in Mindanao to December 31, 2017.
While the government declared the end of the war in Marawi on October 23, security officials said they were expecting retaliation from sympathizers of the Maute group and other terrorists inspired by global terror group Islamic State.
Asked why the military recommended the extension of martial rule, Padilla said there are still armed elements who continue to pose threats in Mindanao.
“The basis for the extension or the declaration of a martial law previously (is) the many threats that we still face in the island of Mindanao particularly,” he said.
Duterte, in an interview in Davao City on November 18, said the military's recommendation would be his basis for either lifting or extending martial law in Mindanao.
Housing czar Eduardo del Rosario, chairperson of Task Force Bangon Marawi, earlier backed the possible extension of martial law, citing the potential terror threats to government's efforts to restore normalcy in Marawi City.
Under Section 18, Article 7 of the Constitution, a president's declaration of martial law and suspension of writ of habeas corpus can either be revoked or extended for a period determined by Congress through joint voting.
Meanwhile, the Senate minority bloc on Friday, December 8, expressed support for Mindanaoans who oppose the further extension of martial law in Mindanao.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon, for his part alone, said the separate recommendations of the military and police for martial law extension have "no factual and legal basis and is patently unconstitutional.”
“We cannot continuously place Mindanao under martial law and suspend the privilege of the writ without an actual rebellion in the region,” Drilon said in a statement.
He said the Constitution requires the existence of actual rebellion or actual invasion.
Citing Section 18, Article VII of the Constitution, Drilon said the provision on the revocation or extension of the proclamation of martial law is clear and specific, which is “if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it.”
“The mandate of the Constitution is clear – martial law may be declared if actual rebellion exists and Congress may extend the declaration if the rebellion persists,” Drilon said.
Drilon said the grounds for a continued martial law in Mindanao, as cited by the AFP and PNP in news reports, do not meet the requirements of the Constitution.
Drilon, a former justice secretary, said establishing whether rebellion exists “requires an examination of facts not just to show the persistence of rebellion but also that there is danger to public safety.”
If this is the only reason, Drilon said he believes that the AFP and the PNP can exercise their powers under their respective charters without placing Mindanao under martial law for one whole year.
Other minority senators are Paolo Benigno Bam Aquino, Risa Hontiveros, Francis Pangilinan, and Antonio Sonny Trillanes IV.
In their statement, the minority bloc said Marawi residents have expressed that the lifting of military rule, specifically in Marawi, will hasten their return to their homes and that martial law, together with the air strikes, was the reason why they fled Marawi in the early days of the five-month battle between government forces and the Maute terror group. (With Third Anne Peralta-Malonzo and PS Jun Sarmiento/SunStar Philippines)