THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said that the decision of Congress to extend martial law in Mindanao until the end of 2017 was an “acclamation,” as well as a “challenge”.
“It is an acclamation of the sacrifices of every soldier, airman, sailor and marine who died or whose limbs were lost fighting or while supporting the fight to retake Marawi and liberate the hostages,” Col. Edgard Arevalo, chief of the AFP public affairs, said in a statement, shortly after the Congress vote.
Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives voted in favor of President Rodrigo Duterte’s proposal to extend martial law until December 31.
Military and security officials told a special joint session at the Batasang Pambansa that there was also a possibility that they could recommend the lifting of martial law in Mindanao even before the five-month period expires.
However, Arevalo admitted that the military’s task in neutralizing every member of the Islamic State-linked Maute group, rescuing of civilians trapped inside the war-torn city of Marawi and setting conditions for the rehabilitation phase of Marawi were “daunting.”
“But your AFP, aware of the enormity of the job that still needs to be done and the great expectations of our people, will measure up to the test,” he said.
“While the AFP thanks the people for their overwhelming support and manifestation of appreciation, it beseeches fellow Filipinos to join hands and fight violent extremism and never to allow its seeds to take root in their midst,” Arevalo added.
President Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao to stop Maute terrorists from setting up an independent state to be headed by Islamist leader Isnilon Hapilon.
More than 100 soldiers have been killed since the fighting started on May 23.
“Only by accompanying our words of commitment with our resolute and united actions will the forces of good reign over that of evil,” Arevalo said. DEMPSEY REYES