THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) allayed public fears against an extended martial law in Mindanao, saying law-abiding citizens have nothing to fear.
In an interview with reporters, Col. Edgard Arevalo, chief of the AFP public affairs, said the extension of martial law would be directed at putting down different groups of terrorists, their sympathizers and supporters and other law violators in Mindanao.
“We have been for [the]declaration of martial law and its extension, not to violate the rights of the people, but to protect them against these extremist groups, their supporters and sympathizers, there will be some restriction with their freedom of movement, those are necessary consequences that we have been doing on a basis and to protect the interest and safety of the Filipinos,” he said on Sunday.
Congress voted 261-18 for the extension of martial law until December 31, 2017 in a special joint session on Saturday.
Several lawmakers, including those from the opposition and the Makabayan bloc, did not vote on the request by President Rodrigo Duterte on the recommendation of AFP Chief Eduardo Ano.
Arevalo said the congressional vote also showed an “urgency” among the targets that needed to be done, most especially in the war-torn city of Marawi where the Islamic State-linked Maute terrorists laid siege two months ago.
“The fact that [the urgency]was explained during the joint session in Congress and most of our lawmakers from the upper and lower houses of the Congress shows that there is an urgency because we have so many things that needs to be cleared,” Arevalo said.
“Since the fighting in Marawi is not yet over, there are also other movements or threats and activities that needs monitoring in other parts of Mindanao, so, that is why our lawmakers see the need of continuing martial law until December 31,” he said.
President Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao to curb the terrorist activities perpetrated by the Maute terrorists in Marawi, proved to be a “huge assistance” for the military since this hastened the deployment of troops on the ground, particularly in Marawi.
“Because of the declaration of martial law, we were able to have an acceleration in regards to our deployment [of our troops]…If we can see the situation on the ground, there’s a difficulty and complexity of the fighting on the ground,” said Arevalo.
The AFP chief, Arevalo added, has mentioned that the enemies they were fighting were different in terms of tactics and strategies.
The Department of National Defense (DND) issued two arrest orders with at least 300 names who have been linked to the rebellion in Mindanao but authorities have rounded up less than 100.
Arevalo said that with most of the sympathizers apprehended by law-enforcement authorities, “we can say that we have achieved [a lot]with the imposition of martial law”.
He also reiterated the AFP’s call to those persons whose rights were violated to lodge complaints and even cases before appropriate courts and proper authorities.
“Because the AFP leadership is serious about ensuring that our personnel uphold the laws and that those who will be found guilty of violating them will be meted [with]commensurate penalties,” Arevalo said.