Martial law administrator wants martial law lifted, says terrorists “can no longer do a Marawi-type operation”

DAVAO CITY (MINDANEWS / 12 Nov) – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, concurrent martial law administrator, does not favor a fourth extension of martial law in Mindanao beyond December 31,2019 because it has taken so long and because terrorists “can no longer do a Marawi-type operation.”

Lorenzana told Defense reporters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on Monday that terror threats are “under control na” and that “we have sufficient military and police in the area to ensure that terrorists can no longer do a Marawi-type operation”

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. Photo courtesy of DND website

He also cited the clamor of local government units to lift martial law, “such as Mayor Sara,” referring to the Davao City mayor and daughter, Sara, who proposed the city’s exclusion from martial law last June 20, at the 5th Davao Investment Conference. In August, the city’s legislative council passed a resolution requesting President Rodrigo Duterte “for the possible lifting of martial law in Davao City.”

Lorenzana said he will wait for the recommendation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) “but kung ako lang (but if it were just me), I will not recommend anymore the extension.”

“Matagal nang masyado eh” (it has taken so long), Lorenzana said.

The third extension of martial law ends on December 31, 2019 or 952 days after it was declared.

President Duterte declared martial law while in Russia on May 23, 2017, barely eight hours after the first shots were fired between government forces and the Islamic State-inspired Maute Group and its allies on Day 1 of the Marawi Siege.

The declaration covered all of Mindanao’s 27 provinces and 33 cities and was extended thrice from its original duration of only 60 days. When it was to expire, the President requested for an extension up to yearend 2017.

In December 2017, two months after President Duterte declared Marawi “liberated from the terrorist influence,” he again asked Congress again for an extension until yearend 2018 and in December 2018, again asked for an extension until yearend 2019.

From supposedly a period of only 60 days as declared under Proclamation 216, martial law was extended to 222 days until yearend 2017, to 587 until yearend 2018 and to 952 days until December 31, 2019.

Lorenzana said they can “do the job” of countering terrorism, especially if Congress can strengthen the human security act, “then that’s a better arrangement than martial law.”

Asked what he would do if the military recommends extension of martial law, he replied, they will evaluate the reasons of the military and the police and act accordingly.

“Personally, I am not inclined to recommend its extension. Unless the AFP and PNP recommend otherwise. I will await their recommendation which I should receive before December,” Lorenzana added.

Mayor Duterte in her July 8 letters to top military and police officials in the Davao region asked for an assessment “of the present overall security situation” in the city and that if it is encouraging, “may we request for a favorable indorsement from your office supporting our request for the lifting of Martial Law in the entire area of Davao City.”

The mayor told the officials that while Davao City welcomed martial law when it was declared in May 2017, “we also acknowledge that being under Martial Law may have affected otherwise promising prospects for the City in terms of business and investments.”

Davao City’s Sangguniang Panlungsod on August 6 this year passed a resolution sponsored by Councilor Maria Belen Sunga-Acosta, chair of the SP Committee on Peace and Public Safety, requesting President Rodrigo Duterte “for the possible lifting of martial law in Davao City.”

The resolution cited the July 16, 2019 letter of Lt. Gen. Felimon Santos, Eastern Mindanao Command, to the Armed Forces Chief of Staff “favorably indorsing the City’s proposed exclusion of the entire Davao City from martial law.”

“We support the exclusion of Davao City from martial law, provided that all present security forces in place and security measures and initiatives being implemented shall still be operational to avoid giving the terrorist groups an opportunity to stage another attack in any part of Davao City,” he said.

The Philippine National Police’s regional director, Police Brig. Gen. Marcelo Morales, in a letter dated July 23, 2019, in his letter to Mayor Duterte, said the regional PNP “supports the recommendation of the city’s Martial Law exemption to give way for the favorable visions of Davao City in terms of business and investments.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)