Philippines extends martial law in besieged region

Bruno Cirelli
Luglio 25, 2017

Philippine lawmakers on Saturday voted to extend a martial law imposed by President Rodrigo Duterte in the entire Mindanao region to the end of the year.

Some 261 legislators agreed to extend military rule in a seven hour-long joint special session of the house of representatives and the Senate, more than the required two-thirds of the house.

Lorenzana and other security officials explained to Congress that the martial law extension for all of Mindanao was necessary to be able to address the other security threats.

President Duterte placed all of Mindanao under martial law on May 23 when Maute and Abu Sayyaf militants went on the rampage in Marawi City.

The Malacanang presidential palace lauded the decision of the Congress.

More than 500 people have died in the fighting, the government has said, and the United Nations Children's Fund estimates that more than 350,000 people have been displaced.

"Now that the debate is over, let us get on with the job of nation-building and contribute in the attainment of the full promise of Mindanao".

Ensuring that peace is restored in Mindanao and that public safety is protected is not only a battle for the military but for all of us.

Medialdea, however, said the recovery of drugs from the Maute group in Marawi City shows the rebels' links to terror groups.

Senate Minority Floor Leader Franklin Drilon said there is no evidence of rebellion in Mindanao.

Moderate separatist groups from Mindanao should be co-opted to counter the extremist message, he said, while the military should work closer with the U.S. and Australia, which have provided operational advice and surveillance planes. Troops dealt with booby traps and had to wrest back control of Marawi communities room by room, he said, adding that the militants had powerful machine-guns, drones and "seemingly unlimited ammunition".

At least 578 people, including at least 428 militants, 105 soldiers and policemen, as well as 45 civilians have been killed in the worst urban uprising by Muslim militants in the volatile southern Philippines in decades.

The vote allows Duterte to use the military to enforce law on the island of Mindanao, parts of which have been besieged by militants pledging allegiance to Isis.

However, Duterte's political foes disagreed.

Armed Forces chief of staff Eduardo Año, meanwhile, admitted it was the military who specifically requested the extension of martial law in Mindanao until December 31. Moreover, he said that under the Constitution, only an actual rebellion or invasion would need a martial declaration.

The motion has proven to be controversial, with protesters disrupting the joint session of Congress with chants of "Never again to martial law".

He said that around 80 remained actively engaged in fighting government forces.

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