Military, police say Mindanao security situation under control

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    A MILITARY commander in Mindanao yesterday said the security situation in the area is “manageable” and it would not be affected if the implementation of martial law is not extended beyond its expiry on December 31.

    The national police is also not inclined to recommend an extension.

    “Peace and order in Mindanao is under control and continues to show marked stability, a condition that may eventually pave the way for lifting of martial law,” said PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac.

    Banac and Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the AFP’s Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom), made the statement a day after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the martial law administrator, said he is not inclined to recommend an extension of the military rule because the situation in Mindanao is now “under control.”

    Lorenzana also said he would wait for the recommendations of the military and the national police.

    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.

    Martial law has been extended thrice. The last one was in December last year, which is good for a year.

    Meanwhile, Lorenzana said the defense and military establishment is on the “lookout” for Indonesian and Malaysian terrorists who may proceed to Philippines if the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is finally dislodged from Syria.

    “The danger are the Malaysians and Indonesians (ISIS members) who may transfer to Mindanao. We are on the lookout for that. There are many of them (in Syria),” said Lorenzana.

    Citing intelligence shared with him by other countries, Lorenzana said one Filipino ISIS member is in Syria, who is can return to the Philippines if ISIS is finally defeated.

    Sobejana, asked if martial law can now be lifted, said, “We are on top of the situation; the security situation is manageable, especially now that our partners in civil government are very supportive.”

    He said security measures, including checkpoints and curfews, are already in place “although it offers a little inconvenience” to the people.

    In martial law is not be extended, the military will just have to have continue its close coordination with other members of the security sector, civil government, and the community, he said.

    Sobejana also said the Wesmincom is in the process of assessing the situation on the ground.

    “We will submit our honest-to-goodness assessment on the security here in our area of responsibility come December. Then after that, we will wait for the final guidance of the national leadership on what will happen,” he said.

    Banac said the PNP will submit its recommendation to the security cluster of the National Security Council next month.

    Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon said amendments to the Human Security Act should not be a prerequisite for the lifting of martial law in Mindanao.

    Lorenzana on Monday noted efforts in Congress to pass the Human Security Act which will give security forces more teeth in the fight against terrorism.

    Drilon said that Congress can revoke martial law any time sans amendments to the Human Security Act.

    “The Constitution is clear: Martial law may be declared if actual rebellion exists and Congress may extend the declaration if the rebellion persists and public safety requires it,” Drilon said.

    “That is the only ground for extension of martial law. But it is clear since day one that the martial law or its extension in Mindanao has no basis,” Drilon said.