Defense chief not keen on 4th martial law extension

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    DEFENSE Secretary Delfin Lorenzana yesterday said he is not inclined to recommend to President Duterte a fourth extension of martial law in Mindanao, whose implementation will expire on December 31.

    Lorenzana, who is the administrator of the martial law, said the situation in Mindanao is now “under control.”

    “We have sufficient military and police troops in the area to ensure that the terrorists can no longer do a Marawi-type operation,” he said.

    Lorenzana said Mindanao has been under military rule for a while now, and it may be better if soldiers can perform their regular duties. Also, he noted efforts in Congress to amend the Human Security Act to give security forces more teeth in the fight against terrorism.

    “That’s a better arrangement than martial law,” he said.

    Lorenzana said he would wait for the recommendations of the Armed Forces and the national police.

    “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,” he also said.

    President Duterte declared martial law in the entire Mindanao on May 23, 2017 hours after members of the terror group Maute occupied several barangays in Marawi City. The five-month conflict left about a thousand terrorists, 168 soldiers and policemen, and 47 civilians dead.

    The first extension was granted by Congress in July 2017, with martial law in effect up to Dec. 31, 2017. The second extension was up to Dec. 31, 2018, and the third, Dec. 31, 2019.

    The requests for extension were made because of the existence of terror threats and to neutralize terror groups.

    Asked why he was not inclined to recommend the extension, Lorenzana said: “It’s (being implemented) too long already, so we can do our job also.”

    Military commanders in western and eastern Mindanao earlier said they are for the extension of martial law but only in areas where terrorist threats exist.

    AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said the military is still assessing the situation on the ground.

    “Our consultation is ongoing… We have to get inputs from local government units, because they are the ones who will ultimately benefit from this,” he said.

    Arevalo said the military will also have to get inputs from field commanders “because they are the ones who are seeing the situation, directly hearing the sentiments of the people if there is a need (to extend martial law).”

    Arevalo said the deadline is still quite far away. “We are in the process (of assessing the situation on the ground) and hopefully soon, we can pass our recommendation,” he said.