February 25, 2018, 1:41 pm
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AFP: Martial law needed to defeat Abu Sayyaf, BIFF

ARMED Forces chief Gen. Eduardo Año yesterday said the military needs martial law to stay in Mindanao so it could finish off the Abu Sayyaf group which operates in Sulu and Basilan and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Maguindanao.

President Duterte imposed martial law in Mindanao on May 23 hours after the terrorist Maute Group attacked Marawi City in Lanao del Sur. The Maute was aided by a senior leader of the Abu Sayyaf, Isnilon Hapilon, who was killed Monday.

The martial law period was supposed to end in 60 days but Duterte later sought, and was granted by Congress, an extension of up to the end of the year.

Año, who is martial law implementor, said with the declaration yesterday that Marawi has been liberated from the Maute, the military’s focus would now be on the Abu Sayyaf and the BIFF.

The Abu Sayyaf has about 300 to 400 fighters, mostly based in Sulu and Basilan. Duterte, in August last year, ordered the military to finish off the group which is notorious for kidnapping-for-ransom activities and beheading of its local and foreign hostages.

The BIFF has about 200 to 300 members who are mostly members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front with which government signed a peace agreement in 2014.

“We may still need the special provisions of martial law so that we can better perform our job and meet our deadline. Before the end of 2017, we want the Abu Sayyaf, the BIFF and the remaining members of the Maute ISIS severely degraded or almost gone,” said Año.

“But if everything is already okay, we will recommend to the President the lifting of the martial law,” he added.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who is martial law administrator, said he and other security officials are determining whether to recommend to Duterte the continuation or lifting of martial law.

Lorenzana said some Mindanao businessmen have told him businesses are afraid of investing in the area because of the martial law, even if the investment areas are far from Marawi.

“We are going to submit a recommendation to the President maybe within this month, before the end of this month,” he said.

SENATORS DIVIDED

Members of the Senate majority bloc said there is no need to lift martial law in Mindanao but the minority said lifting of martial law would pave the way for normalization in Marawi.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said foreign terrorists still holed up in Marawi and aiding the Maute justifies the continuation of martial law.

Sen. JV Ejercito said, “Martial law shouldn’t be lifted yet in Mindanao. Government troops have to continue clearing operations and make sure all the terrorists are arrested or neutralized.”

Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri said he supports the continuation of martial law until December 31 “so that human, material and financial resources can be fully utilized and rehabilitation will be achieved at a shorter time, sooner than later.”

Minority members Francis Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros called for the lifting of martial law.

Pangilinan said that while the recommendation should come from authorities, it would be better to bring back normalcy in Marawi and the rest of Mindanao soon.

Hontiveros said the deaths of Hapilon and Maute should prompt government to lift martial.

“From the start, I have been confident that with or without martial law, our brave soldiers will be able to defeat the terrorist threat in Marawi,” she said. – With JP Lopez

 
 
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