BACOLOD CITY: The 60-day martial law imposed throughout Mindanao “may not be enough,” according to Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri. In a news conference in Bacolod City on Friday, Zubiri said “it could be extended to neutralize this new rebel force of extremists.” He added that “the long-term solution to the problem in Mindanao is to put an end to corruption and widespread poverty in the area” and “[w]e have to end feudalism in the troubled Mindanao area.” Zubiri said the government “is not against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Moro National Liberation Front and the New People’s Army. We are in peace talk with them but [we]are after Islamist terrorists who want to sow fear, panic and death. This is not a Muslim-Christian war, this is a fight against extremists.” According to the senator, clearing Marawi is difficult because the rebels are “located at sniper nests, familiar with the terrain and had prepositioned firearms and ammunition in homes all over the city, that is why they have not run out of bullets until now. This is not jungle warfare, this is close-quarter battle that our soldiers are now fighting.” Zubiri reiterated his support of President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law “because the threat that Islamist militants in Marawi would spread terror to other parts of Mindanao is real.” But he said he is against the expansion of the declaration of military rule to the Visayas and Luzon. Majority of the people in Mindanao, about 95 percent or maybe even higher, support martial law, he said. Since the declaration of martial law in Mindanao, petty crimes have gone down by 70 percent and drugs by 50 percent because of police and military presence and the checkpoints, the senator added. “We in Mindanao are sick and tired of all these armed elements, and politicians with private armies. Now is the chance of the President to clean this all up,” he said. Zubiri appealed to Negrenses to send help to the 200,000 suffering displaced families of Marawi in the form of food and clothes. Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. has committed P1 million in assistance from the Negros Occidental provincial government, while Church and non- government organizations in the province have started sending aid to Marawi.
EUGENE Y. ADIONG