Duterte sets meeting on lifting martial law; lifting not taken up in Mindanao Catholic leaders’ meet

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 20 October) —  President Rodrigo Duterte will convene a meeting with his Security, Justice and Peace cluster in the Cabinet to decide if martial law in Mindanao should already be lifted or be allowed to continue until  December 31, Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said at the Mindanao Hour press briefing on Friday.

In Davao City, Archbishop Romulo Valles told a press conference Thursday, at the end of the Mindanao Sulu Pastoral Conference, that calling on President Duterte to lift martial law in Mindanao was not discussed during the four-day meet as the focus of the participants, aside from the conference theme, was on how to help rebuild Marawi.

Victorious Marines celebrate as they leave a rainy Marawi City, en route to their home base, on Thursday (19 October 2017). MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Abella said the killing of  terror group leaders  Isnilon Hapilon of the Abu Sayyaf, Omar Maute of the Maute Group and Malaysian national Dr. Mahmud Ahmad “does not automatically result in the  lifting of martial law” as there are still “remnants, including networks supporting the Maute — the Maute cause within Mindanao”

In the Davao press conference on Thursday, Mindanao’s lone Cardinal, Orlando Quevedo, the Archbishop of Cotabato, said “the threat of extremism is still there even though the war in Marawi might have ended,” (see other story)

Abella said the President is “duty-bound not to compromise public safety” and will meet with members of his Security, Justice and Peace Cluster in the Cabinet, particularly Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana,  the Martial Law Administrator and General Eduardo Ano, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the designated Martial Law Implementor, “on the necessary action to be taken.”

Abella did not say when the meeting will take place. Ano is retiring as AFP Chief of Staff on October 26.

Duterte declared martial law over Mindanao’s 27 provinces and 33 cities effective 10 p.m. on May 23, barely eight hours after the Marawi Crisis began. He declared the country’s lone Islamic City “liberated from the terrorist influence” on October 17, Day 148 of the Crisis, even as operations were still continuing against an estimated 30 terrorists holding some 22 hostages then,

Two hostages were rescued and 13 terrorists were killed Wednesday night, including Mahmud, the military said.

Archbishop Valles, who will take over as president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) by December 1, said participants of the four-day conference at the Waterfront Insular Hotel — 249 from the different dioceses in Mindanao — focused on helping rebuild Marawi when they heard the news about the death of the leaders of the extremists

There was no discussion to call on President Duterte to lift martial law, Valles said.

“I am sure everyone knows about this incident – the death of two leaders – but the reaction of the participants, nothing about (lifting martial law) but let us help Marawi. That is very resounding… There is a deep, sincere, passionate concern. But it didn’t cross our mind, we did not talk about ending martial law but let us help the people of Marawi. That was very evident in the conference,” he said.

Mindanao’s Catholic bishops issued a statement on May 26 that martial law must be “temporary.”

“We have many fears. But at present we simply do not have solid and sufficient facts to absolutely reject the declaration of Martial Law as morally reprehensible. But we are certainly agreed that Martial Law must be temporary,” the Mindanao bishops said in their statement then.

Duterte’s martial law declaration was for 60 days but he asked and was granted by Congress to extend the period of martial law until December 31. (Carolyn O. Arguillas and Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)