Palace: Duterte won't lift martial despite deaths of terrorist leaders

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte will not lift his martial law in Mindanao despite the deaths of terrorist leaders Isnilon Hapilon, Omar Maute, and Mahmud Ahmad in Marawi City, a Malacañang official said on Friday.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the President would not compromise public safety, noting that there were some Jihadist fighters who are still on the loose.

"The death of terror leaders in Marawi rebellion, which include Omar Maute, Isnilon Hapilon, and Dr. Mahmud Ahmad, does not automatically result in the lifting of martial law," Abella told a press conference.

"There are remnants, including networks supporting the Maute within Mindanao. The President is duty bound not to compromise public safety," he added.

Duterte placed the entire Mindanao under martial law on May 23 after Islamic State (IS)-inspired Maute terror groups infested at least 96 villages in the beleaguered southern city.

The 60-day martial law in Mindanao was extended by Congress until December 31, 2017 after it expired on July 22.

The Maute group wreaked havoc in Marawi City while the military was conducting an operation against Hapilon, an Abu Sayyaf leader believed to be anointed as IS emir in Southeast Asia.

Maute militants, which were reportedly joined by less than a hundred foreign terrorists, laid siege to Marawi in an effort to establish caliphate for IS group in Southeast Asia.

On October 17, the President declared that Marawi was already free from the hands of the terrorist after the security forces killed Hapilon and Maute during the October 16 offensive.

On October 19, Duterte confirmed the death of Mahmud, a Malaysian doctor who was purportedly the financier and recruiter in Marawi rebellion.

Abella said the Commander-in-Chief would meet Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff General Eduardo Año, administrator and implementor of martial law in the south, to discuss "the necessary action to be taken."

AFP spokesperson Major General Restituto Padilla Jr. said the implementation of the martial law was necessary because the troops still have to address terror threats in other areas in Mindanao.

He noted that four terror groups -- Ansar Khilafah Philippines, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Abu Sayyaf, Maute group -- still posed threats outside Marawi City.

Padilla said military assaults in the south, specifically in Jolo, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao, and Cotabato, would remain relentless until the remaining Islamist fighters are wiped out.

"On the other parts of Mindanao, the armed forces would continue to launch operations, especially in Jolo, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, other areas in Maguindanao, and Cotabato, where large groups of forces might perform hostilities," he said.

"So these are the subject of these operations and we will be relentless and we will not cease until we have adequately or completely addressed the destruction of these networks or these units that will pose danger to public safety," he added.

In a speech delivered in Manila Thursday night, Duterte said he is not yet keen to lift martial law unless "the last terrorist is taken out."

It was not clear, however, if he meant to flush out all the terrorists only in Marawi or in the entire Mindanao.

Padilla said the troops would double their efforts to completely quell insurgency by year-end.

"At the moment, we're working on the timeline that's provided to us, which is towards the end of the year. Now, what we will do towards the end of the year is to address the remaining networks and the other terrorist organizations," Padilla said.

"We're very appreciative of the declaration of the President [of not lifting martial law yet] because we actually really need it because it enables our forces to act quickly to address security threats, particularly in Mindanao," he added. (SunStar Philippines)


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