OPPOSITION senators sought justification for the 5-month extension of martial law in Mindanao considering that by the military’s admission more than half of the 600 Maute extremists have been killed for the past 60 days.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said that from May 23 up to July 10, a total of 379 Maute rebels out of the estimated 600 extremists who seized Marawi City have been killed in military operations.
“If we have neutralized 379 Maute in less than 2 months why do we need six more months or 3 times the length of the time to neutralize more than half of the rebels or defeat the remaining rebels in the conflict area?” Drilon asked Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea who was first called to make a presentation for the extension of martial law.
Medialdea said that the Maute group was engaging government forces in an urban warfare. “This is the first time that we have encountered this kind of situation where civilians were forced to fight the government forces under the threat of being killed.
“It’s not an easy task to be running against these rebels hiding in houses, hiding in mosques, hiding under the ground. That is the recommendation given by the military to the President,” he said.
“I think it would be better if we ask for a longer period than for a shorter period and then shorter period which we cannot deliver a promise and then ask again for an extension which can no longer be done. I think it would be more practical to do it now to as for a period until December 31,” Medialdea said.
Drilon, however, said that according to the President only four barangay (villages) were under the control of the Maute group. “The factual basis for period of extension up to Dec. 31 cannot be supported if we are going look at the number of barangay not yet cleared.”
The Senate minority leader also questioned why Agusan del Norte and Agusan del Sur, which are not adjacent to Marawi City and not under threat of rebellion, were included in the scope of martial law.
“May I know the justification for extending martial law to all these provinces?” Drilon asked.
Medialdea said: “There are 1,200 manpower of the rebel group operating in Mindanao. We cannot foresee the location where they were going.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan asked why the military needed 150 days to clear the remaining 4 villages being held by the Maute group when soldiers were able to retake 16 within 60 days.
“Will this render the Armed Forces of the Philippines incapable or ineffective in dealing with the rebellion?”
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, martial law administrator said: “We need just some leeway to finish our job within that period given.”