THE commander of the military’s Western Mindanao Command yesterday said he wants martial law, currently being implemented in the entire Mindanao, extended beyond December 31 but said it should only cover the Bangsamoro region.
Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the AFP’s WMC based in Zamboanga City, cited the lingering problem with terrorist groups in the region, including the Abu Sayyaf.
“We may limit it (if extended) to BARMM (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) but everything is dependent on our assessment,” Sobejana said in a phone interview.
Wesmincom supervises all military operations in BARMM, Zamboanga Peninsula and part of Soccsksargen.
The remaining Mindanao areas are under the Davao City-based Eastern Mindanao Command, under the leadership of Lt. Gen. Felimon Santos.
“Selective. I don’t recommend the whole of Mindanao. Maybe in areas where we have problems in terms of security…We still need it in BARMM, all other areas (in Wesmincom), we can (lift it),” said Sobejana.
Sobejana said Dipolog City, Tacurong City and Sultan Kudarat no longer need martial law, noting that they are “relatively peaceful.”
“Come December, we will submit our security assessment. I don’t know on the part of the Eastmincom but on my part, as Wesmincom (chief), thats my recommendation (as of now),” added Sobejana.
Santos did not answer calls to get his side.
Last August, Santos said he supports a resolution by the Davao City council to lift martial law in the city due to improved peace and order situation. He said situation in other provinces under Eastmincom have also improved but they are assessing if martial law should be also lifted in these areas.
Asked why he wanted martial law extended in BARMM, Sobejana said: “The usual security problem, the Abu Sayyaf is there.” The Abu Sayyaf has about 300 to 400 members, mostly in Sulu and Basilan.
“The BIFF is there, there are also remnants of the Maute (Group),” Sobejana added. “The efforts of our counterparts (in the local government) should be sustained and that is the delivery of basic services.”
President Duterte declared martial law on May 23, 2017 in the entire Mindanao after members of the Daesh-inspired Maute Group laid a siege of several barangays in Marawi City, which is among the cities under BARMM.
The five-month conflict resulted in the death of about a thousand terrorists, 168 soldiers and policemen and 47 civilians. The slain terrorists included Maute leaders Abdullan Maute and Omar Maute and Islamic Stat of Iraq and Syria-Southeast Asia emir Isnilon Hapilon.
Martial law had been extended thrice by Congress on the recommendation of Duterte due to continuing terrorist threat. The last extension was made in December last year, which is good until December 31 this year.