No more extension of martial law

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    PRESIDENT Duterte has decided against seeking a fourth extension of martial law being implemented since May 2017.

    The President made the decision based on the assessment and recommendations of his security and defense advisers amid the “weakening of the terrorist and extremist rebellion, as a result of the capture or neutralization of their leaders, as well as the decrease in the crime index,” Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and concurrent presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said yesterday.

    He could not say if the decision was reached during the joint command conference of the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police in Malacañang on Monday night, but said the recommendation of security officials against the extension of martial law was “unanimous.”

    Duterte imposed martial rule in the entire Mindanao on May 23, 2017, hours after the Maute terror group attacked and occupied several barangays in Marawi City. The Marawi conflict lasted for five months and led to the death of over a thousand terrorists, 168 soldiers and policemen, and 47 civilians.

    Duterte has asked Congress to extend martial law thrice, with the last extension ending on December 31, mainly on the ground that the terrorist groups continued with their “hostile activities.”

    Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana last week said he has recommended the non-extension of martial law because the terrorists are no longer capable of launching a Marawi-like attack because their strength has “significantly dwindled.”

    Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said it is “pleased” with the President’s decision.

    “The AFP was among security-related agencies that were consulted as to whether or not ML (martial law) will be extended or not,” he said.

    “We have cited several reasons like improved security climate in Mindanao, the continued decline of the Daesh-inspired local terrorist groups,” said Arevalo on why the military did not recommend the extension of martial law.

    Arevalo said not extending martial law will “further promote an environment more conducive to economic activities.”

    Arevalo said the military will continue to push for amendments to the Human Security Act to give it more teeth.

    Panelo assured the Mindanaoans government forces would be able to address any threat that may surface after martial law ends.

    “The Palace is confident in the capability of our security forces in maintaining the peace and security of Mindanao without extending martial law. The people of Mindanao are assured that any incipient major threat in the region would be nipped in the bud,” he added. – With Victor Reyes