President Rodrigo Duterte defended his declaration of martial law in Mindanao, saying it was meant to quell rebellion and prevent a spillover of terrorist attacks.
“I declared martial law in Mindanao because I believed that that was the fastest way to quell the rebellion at the least cost of lives and property,” Duterte said during his second State of the Nations Address (SONA) on Monday.
He also reiterated his support for the soldiers battling Islamic State-inspired Maute terrorists.
“Those troops who are on the ground risking their lives, I have your backs,” he said. “Do not fear, I stand behind you.”
On May 23, the Duterte issued Proclamation 216 declaring martial law in Mindanao after Maute extremist group engaged in a firefight with government forces tasked to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon.
The security officials said that the Maute rebels and Hapilon have allegedly pledged allegiance to Islamic State.
Duterte sought Congress’ approval to martial law extension as the initial 60-day declaration expired on Saturday, July 22.
During the special joint session convened by the Senate and the House of Representatives, 261 lawmakers approved the extension of martial law until December 31, 2017 while only 18 voted against the proposal.
Sixteen senators voted in favor of the 150-day extension, while four voted against. On the other hand, 245 House members approved the extension while 14 rejected it.