DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 01 September) — President Rodrigo Duterte said he thought of lifting martial law earlier than December 31, 2017 but they have to address what may be a “spillover” in Buldon, Maguindanao.
“I was thinking that we could, you know, lift (martial law) earlier but the way it looks, parang may spillover na sa ARMM eh, sa Buldon. Let us see. If it is to the interest of the country that I will lift it, I will lift it but if not, then we just have to continue with the martial law,” Duterte told troops assembled at the 11th anniversary of the Eastern Mindanao Command late Friday afternoon.
Duterte gave no details of the supposed “spillover” but military and local government officials in Maguindanao said there was no such incident.
Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu tod MindaNews in a telephone interview Friday that he checked with military officials and the mayor but they have not monitored any “spillover” in Buldon.
Manguadatu said they will continue to monitor the situation.
“No idea,” Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said in reply to MindaNews’ query re “spillover” in Buldon.
Capt. Jo-Anne Petinglay, spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command and Joint Task Force Marawi told MindaNews there is no “spillover” in Buldon. She said she checked with the 6th Infantry Division where she and Westminom Chief Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez were previously assigned, and was told there was an incident in the “SPMS box.”
SPMS refers to the area of Salibo-Pagatin-Mamasapano-Shariff Aguak), all in Maguindanao where clashes between the extremist Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the Joint Task Force Central of the 6th Infantry Division occurred. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which has a peace agreement with the government, had also clashed with the BIFF last month. At least five MILF combatants were killed and at least 10 others were injured.
Duterte, who was on official visit in Moscow, declared martial law in all of Mindanao’s 27 provinces and 33 cities for 60 days effective 10 p.m. on May 23, some eight hours after clashes between government forces and the Maute Group in downtown Marawi City started.
At that time, two soldiers and a police officer had been killed while 12 others were injured. As of 7 p.m. on August 31, 136 soldiers have been killed since May 23. At least 52 soldiers were injured on August 31. Day 101 of the Marawi Crisis.
By a vote of 261-18, the joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives approved on July 22 the request of President Duterte to extend martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the entire Mindanao until 31 December 2017.
Duterte urged his troops to “continue being faithful to their sworn oath to protect and defend our sovereignty and our people especially as martial law remains in effect in Mindanao amid the persistent threats of terrorism and insurgency.”
He said he left it to the military and police to “solve the problem” in Marawi except for the issue on the mosques occupied by the Maute Group. “Sabi ko ‘huwag, maano yan, ma … hard to answer. Hard to answer yan. It will take take a long, long time for us to justify it or never at all,” he said.
Two days earlier, in his speech at the anniversary celebration of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority in Taguig, Duterte said that the last time he was in Marawi (August 24), “I finally said na ano, ‘the option is already yours because we cannot have a stalemate for over one year.'”
In mid-June, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said mosques where the Maute Group had reportedly encamped and used as machine gun and snipers’ nests were not targets of air strikes.
Westmincom chief Galvez said mosques were “no fire areas.”
Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, AFP spokesperson read a statement “directly ordered” by Armed Forces Chief of Staff Eduardo Ano, categorically stating that the AFP has “not bombed and will not bomb mosques in Marawi” and that its leadership is “firm in its commitment to use other options that would flush out this Maute/Daesh-inspired group from these places of worship that they have converted into machine gun and sniper nest, defensive position, and arsenals for their war activities.”
The statement assured Muslims that the AFP will “not go down to the level of these terrorists who desecrate places of worship to lure government security forces into responding to their violent activities in a similar manner.”
It also expressed confidence it will be able to retake the remaining portion of Marawi held by the Maute Group “through other options available to the Armed Forces.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)
(Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)