By Genalyn Kabiling
Faced with the lingering threat of rebellion in Mindanao, President Duterte is seeking the extension of martial law in the troubled region until the end of the year.
The President sent a seven-page letter to Congress leaders conveying his request for a five-month martial law extension, admitting the government has unable to put an end to the threat posed by terror groups by July 22.
Proclamation No. 216 on the 60-day martial law in Mindanao aimed to quell lawless violence and rebellion, signed by the President last May 23, will expire this Saturday.
Duterte asked Congress to convene a special session to consider an extended martial law in the interest of public safety.
“I have come to the conclusion that the existing rebellion in Mindanao which has prompted me to issue Proclamation 216 on 23 May 2017 will not be quelled completely by 22 July 2017, the last day of the 60-day period under Section 18, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution,” Duterte said in his letter.
“For this reason and because public safety requires it, I call upon the Congress to extend until 31st of December 2017 or for such a period of time Congress may determine the proclamation of martial law and the suspension for the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao,” he said.
The President’s decision on the longer martial rule was reached after what he said was his “thorough personal assessment” of the situation in Marawi City and other parts of Mindanao as well as consideration of the recommendation given by top defense, military and police officials.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said that by extending the martial rule in Mindanao, troops could continue with their operations “unhampered with deadlines.”
It would also allow government forces to focus more on the liberation of Marawi City and its eventual rebuilding plans, according to Abella.
“It would have to deal with local terror groups and anything that threatens public safety in Mindanao,” he said about the proposed martial law extension.
Asked if the security threat was clear and present, Abella replied: “Enough to be declared and should be extended.”
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