MALACANANG has not yet received any proposal from the military to extend again the Mindanao martial law, less than two months before it expires, Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said yesterday.
“Walang [proposal kung i-extend]. Hinihintay ang rekomendasyon ng military. Members of the military are on the ground, sila ang nakakaalam. They will be the ones to advice the President kung papalawigin o ili-lift na,” Panelo, who also serves as Presidential Legal Counsel, said on a radio interview.
“It will depend on the recommendation of military. Kasi noong in-explain niya (Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte) noong the first time, ‘di ba iyon ang kanilang rekomendasyon. Kasi ayon sa kanila (military), kailangan pa [ang martial law] at threat pa iyong mga terorista,” Panelo added.
President Rodrigo Duterte, with Congress’ consent, placed Mindanao under martial law in May last year to quash the ISIS-influenced Maute terrorist group and their sympathizers who laid siege to the Islamic city of Marawi from May to October 2017.
From an initial six months, Congress agreed to extend military rule in the region until the end of 2018.
Panelo, however, clarified that the President’s decision on the matter is not totally dependent on the military’s recommendation.
“The President, certainly, will consider their recommendation but he has the final say,” Panelo added.
The majority of the members of the Senate are mum on the issue of the possible extension of Martial Law in Mindanao as they expressed willingness to wait for clear explanation from the administration.
Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is sure to brief both houses of Congress on the matter.
“My concurrence or objection will depend on the presentation including its accuracy,” Sotto said.
Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson concurred and quipped that the senators must still first assess the present situation in Mindanao before deciding to allow another extension.
“That is an issue that is best resolved by the SC (Supreme Court) and since there is a pending petition under deliberation, it is prudent and wise not to make a comment on the matter at hand,” Lacson said.
Senate Majority Floor Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri insisted that the senators must be first briefed so that they can make an informed decision on the matter. He added that the briefing should be done soon or when the senators come back from the session break.
Senator Gringo Honasan specified that the implementors of Martial Law must first justify the extension especially to the “unwitting victims and intended beneficiaries” of ML.
However, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan is steadfast in his opposition to the implementation of ML in Mindanao and insisted that the passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law is enough to maintain peace in the region.
“There is no indication that there is an actual invasion or rebellion. We just passed the BOL. Major peace initiatives are underway,” Pangilinan argued.
He added that it is ironic that unprecedented stride in the peace and order and development in Mindanao is underway through BOL but yet military rule is to be extended.
“It looks like the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing,” Pangilinan added.