Lorenzana wants martial law lifted

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    DEFENSE Secretary Delfin Lorenzana yesterday recommended to President Duterte the non-extension of martial law in Mindanao, which has been in effect since May 2017.

    The military rule has thrice been extended by Congress on the request of the President, with the last extension expiring on December 31. It was enforced on May 23, 2017 hours after the Maute terror group attacked and occupied several barangays of Marawi City. The group was driven out after a five-month battle that left about 1,000 terrorists, 168 soldiers and policemen, and 47 civilians dead.

    In his letter last year to Congress seeking a third extension, the President said “rebellion still persists” and terrorist groups like the Abu Sayyaf, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and Daulah Islamiyah “continue to defy the government by perpetrating hostile activities.”

    “I just sent my recommendation today to the President recommending the non-extension of martial law in Mindanao,” Lorenzana, the martial law administrator, told members of the Manila Overseas Press Club in Makati City.

    He said security forces have achieved their mission under martial law and expressed confidence they can maintain peace and order in Mindanao without it.

    “With the situation there now, we believe that we can maintain the peace and order there and improve it further, make it more peaceful, without martial law,” he said.

    Lorenzana said it is time to “go back to normal,” noting that the military rule is being implemented in entire Mindanao for over two years now.

    “I believe there is so much concern from other countries (about martial law),” he said adding, however, that the martial law being implemented in Mindanao is “so mild” and so much different from the martial law imposed by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the 1970s.

    Lorenzana also said businessmen are having second thoughts about going to Mindanao because of martial law, “so we have to lift martial law now.” He recalled that a Japanese company was planning to put up a steel mill in Mindanao but backed out because of the imposition of martial law.

    In a statement later, Lorenzana said his recommendation was based on assessments conduced by the military and the police.

    “Our security forces have determined that the purpose of implementing martial law has been attained and the prevailing conditions in the whole of Mindanao Island as well as the Islands of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi have greatly improved since the defeat of the Maute fighters in October 2017,” said Lorenzana.

    Lorenzana said the AFP believes the Maute Group and other terrorist groups in Mindanao “can no longer launch a Marawi-type attack as their forces and capabilities have significantly dwindled.”

    “We’ve also made significant strides in combating insurgency, with three guerilla fronts and three `Pulang Bagani’ commands cleared and dismantled, respectively,” he said, referring to New People’s Army units in Mindanao.