Some senators are open to a proposal to declare martial law in certain areas in Mindanao to stop the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) from sowing terror and taking hostages for ransom.
A military official also said declaring martial law in Abu Sayyaf lairs will enable the military to go after the bandits and their supporters in full force.
Senator Vicente Sotto 3rd told The Manila Times on Wednesday he is willing to support the proposal to impose martial law in areas in Mindanao if that will help resolve the Abu Sayyaf problem.
“I have no objections. I will agree,” Sotto said.
Incoming Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who once served as head of the Philippine National Police, also said he is open to the idea.
He said he is willing to join a move granting additional powers to incoming President Rodrigo Duterte for him to solve the problem posed by the jihadists from the Abu Sayyaf group who beheaded another Canadian hostage–Robert Hall–early this week.
The group executed Hall after their demand for a P600-million ransom was not met.
A senior military official said declaring martial law in areas where the terror group holds sway will enable the Armed Forces of the Philippines to crush the rebel group.
“Declare martial law. Tama yun, di ba ang sinasabi ko sa inyo kung gusto ninyong malutas kaagad, total control ng military at gawin lahat ng solutions [Declare martial law. That is the right thing to do. If you want the problem solved, there should be total military control],” the official who requested anonymity, said.
He added that a state of martial law should be limited to known lairs of the ASG.
The jihadists have strongholds in Sulu and Basilan provinces in southern Mindanao.
If martial law is put in place, the official said, the military would also be able to go after local government officials conspiring with the rebel group.
“Kasi ang local government ang tumutulong sa mga kalaban, alam nyo naman yun [The local government is helping the enemy]. The local government is the one making this issue grow in perpetuity, sino nagne-negotiate? Di ba sila [They are the ones negotiating, aren’t they]? Who is in charge of the LGUs? DILG,” he said, referring to local government units and the Department of Interior and Local Government.
The official said his idea is similar to what former President Gloria Arroyo did in 2009 when she declared martial law in Maguindanao province after the massacre of 57 people in Ampatuan town.
The declaration suspended the writ of habeas corpus in the province except “for certain areas.”
The writ suspension authorized the military to make arrests even without court orders.
But the official said strong political will is needed to put an end to the Abu Sayyaf problem.
“We can only make recommendations but we are not the government, we are just part of the government. So do not always look at the military as the provider of solutions. The military is not being capacitated to provide the solutions,” he pointed out.
According to him, it is easy for the Abu Sayyaf rebels to hide because they only have to conceal their firearms and blend with the community.
He explained that the martial law he is proposing is different from what former President Ferdinand Marcos declared in 1972.
“It’s not like that. Napaka-professional na ng Armed Forces, pagdudahan nyo pa [Your Armed Forces are so professional, do not doubt us],” the official said.
“Pagtiwalaan ninyong gawin [namin], hindi naman yan [martial law]aabot ng Maynila [Trust us. It will not reach Manila],” he added.
Incoming PNP chief Ronald Dela Rosa has also said he would support the declaration of martial law if it would lead to the neutralization of the terrorist group.