Martial law in Mindanao ends 31 December, 952 days after its declaration

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 10 December) – After three extensions, Martial law in Mindanao will finally end on December 31, 2019 or 952 days after President Rodrigo Duterte declared it.

“The Office of the President wishes to announce that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is not extending martial law; it will expire on December 31st, 2019,” Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelosaid in a press briefing in Malcanang on Tuesday.

The President’s decision, according to Panelo, is based on the assessment of security forces as well as defense advisers “that the terrorists and extremist rebellion have been weakened as a result of the capture or neutralization of their leaders; as well as there has been a decrease in the index crime.”

He assured Mindanawons that “any incipient major threat in Mindanao will be nipped in the bud even without martial law.”

Mindanao’s 27 provinces and 33 cities have been under martial law since May 23, 2017, for a total of two years, seven months and eight days by December 31.

Last month, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, martial law administrator, said he was not for a fourth extension because it has taken so long and terrorists “can no longer do a Marawi-type operation.”

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.

Bukidnon Bishop Jose Cabantan welcomed the news that martial law would not be extended beyond December 31.

Cabantan said that while some people say it did not feel like we’re under martial law in Mindanao or that this is different from the past, “sa ngalan nga martial law negative mn ang connotation ana. Buot ipasabot wala gyuy tiunay nga kalinaw sa Mindanaw” (martial law itself has negative connotation. It means there is no peace in Mindanao).

Buildings lay in ruins after the five-month battle to retake Marawi City from ISIS-inspired terrorists. Photo taken Tuesday (24 October 2017). MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

In Marawi City, Drieza Lininding, chair of the Marawi-based Moro Consensus Group, welcomed Duterte’s decision not to extend martial law. “Today is a good day with the announcement from Malacanang that they will no longer seek for the extension of martial law in Mindanao,” he said in a Facebook post.

Lininding, however, called for vigilance. “We don’t know what’s in the minds of peace saboteurs both from extremist groups and the government.”

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.

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.

But in December that year, Duterte again asked Congress to extend martial law, this time, for a year, until December 31, 2018 and in December 2018, sought and was granted yet another year-long extension, until December 31, 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.”

In a statement, Bayan Muna’s Representatives Carlos Isagani Zarate and Eufemia Cullamat said not extending martial law “should have no strings attached and have no preconditions.”

“Such a move should not be in exchange for the passage of the Amended Human Security Act (HSA), because if so this is nothing but a cheap, yet, brazen and fascist blackmail that will dangerously put in place a de facto Martial rule all over the country,” Zarate said.

“With the dismal human rights situation in the country and the horrible human rights record of state security forces, this amended HSA will be weaponized so that they can just pick up anybody, activists and government critics especially, and throw them in jail, among others,” added Zarate.

Cullamat said martial law is not the answer to rebellion or terrorism. What should be done is to address the problem at its roots. (MindaNews)