The extension of martial law will eradicate the remaining members of the Islamic State (IS)-linked Maute group in Marawi City and prevent any spillover in other parts of Mindanao, the Department of National Defense (DND) said on Wednesday.
DND Undersecretary Cardozo Luna said the Maute group has a wide network, thus the problem is not only confined in Marawi.
“The reason why some are opposing martial law is because for them, it should just be [addressing the]fighting in Marawi or Lanao del Sur only, but you know the network of this group is widespread,” Luna said at the 7th General Membership Meeting of the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines in Makati City.
Abu Sayyaf chief Isnilon Hapilon, the supposed IS chief in Southeast Asia, is said to have deep connections with other terrorist groups in Sulu, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and North Cotabato.
“He (Hapilon) is not from Marawi or anywhere from Lanao del Sur and he is from Basilan and he has tied up with the group of Radullan Sahiron in Sulu. This is the most notorious group of the Abu Sayyaf and there are also groups in Sarangani, South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat,” Luna said, adding that these groups were also linked to the IS.
President Duterte has asked both chambers of Congress to convene and tackle the extension of martial law on Saturday, July 22.
His May 23 declaration under Proclamation 216, which ends on July 22, was upheld by the Supreme Court in a majority vote.
In a speech read by Luna during the event, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the Marawi conflict will not affect the economy significantly.
“Recent events such as the conflict in Marawi and the subsequent imposition of martial law in Mindanao are examples of escalating domestic political risks that could, should they multiply and escalate, undermine institutional strength and ultimately, economic growth. To date, neither appears an immediate concern,” Lorenzana said.
The defense chief also claimed the status in Marawi had been “stabilizing” and the government was already preparing and planning for the rehabilitation phase.
Luna also expressed confidence the extension of martial law in Mindanao would pass Congress. In case the conflict in Marawi ends before December 31, the military will recommend the termination of martial law, he said.
Senators on Wednesday quizzed security officials on the necessity to extend martial law up to December 31 and asked whether the government already had a “blueprint” for the rehabilitation of war-torn Marawi City.
Senators from both majority and minority blocs attended the security briefing given by Lorenzana, Armed Forces chief Gen. Eduardo Año and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.
Present in the closed-door meeting were Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, as well as Senators Juan Edgardo Angara, Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Richard Gordon, Gregorio Honasan 2nd, Risa Hontiveros, Grace Poe, Joel Villanueva, Cynthia Villar and Juan Miguel Zubiri.
Recto favors a “shorter expiry” for the extended martial law, “limited to directly affected areas.” He also said a prolonged martial law in Mindanao should be accompanied with “massive reconstruction of homes, livelihood and public works” destroyed by the fighting in Marawi.
Drilon said: “We are, in general, in support of the extension of the martial law. I’m inclined to support, but we debate on the length of the extension and the coverage, so that is where the debate will center.”
Poe said senators wanted more information on the situation in Marawi as well as rehabilitation plans.
“I asked a lot of questions, same with my colleagues. We asked them to present (the additional information that we need) during our joint session on Saturday to clarify why it should be extended until December,” she said.
“We need more details from them as to why it should be that long. Our question was, is it necessary? I will support any effort to end the problem of rebellion there. We support our soldiers but we also understand the situation of our IDPs (internally displaced persons), the displaced families. What can be done (to help them)? And where is their blueprint? How will they rebuild Marawi? That is important,” said Poe.
Zubiri said a five-month extension of martial law in Mindanao was “necessary” to ensure unhampered reconstruction activity in war-torn Marawi City.
“Sixty days is a short period to run after these terrorists. I had a feeling that after 60 days, the President will again ask for an extension,” he said.
with BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO