MANILA, Philippines – Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Eduardo Año expressed support for President Rodrigo Duterte’s request to Congress for the martial law extension to last until December 31.
Speaking to media on Tuesday, July 18, Año said the 5-month period is “enough” for the military to degrade the capabilities of armed groups in Mindanao.
“It’s enough for us to do our job and finish this job,” said Año.
The military chief said he recommended an extension of martial law but refused to say the length of time he had recommended that it last.
However, he said it’s possible for the military to recommend that Duterte lift martial law even before December 31.
“Even the President will agree, once everything is normalized, we will even recommend the early termination of martial law,” he said.
By “normalize,” he meant the significant “degradation” of capabilities of terrorist groups in Mindanao. These include not just Maute Group members but also members of the Abu Sayyaf Group and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
Año also said the end of the Marawi crisis won’t necessarily prompt the military to recommend the lifting of military rule.
“[The] Marawi crisis is just a part of the ongoing rebellion and terrorism in Mindanao. We can see that the group in Marawi includes different groups. There’s a group from Sulu, from Basilan, from Maguindanao,” he said.
He estimates that there are still some 800 such Maute or Islamic State-inspired terrorists scattered in different parts of Mindanao.
Año defended the need for martial law, and not just intensified security measures.
“Kung walang martial law, madali lang naka-reinforce ang mga ito eh. With martial law, nakapag-impose tayo ng mga curfews at ng mga checkpoints sa selected areas. While it is inconvenient for the public, it restricted the movement of armed groups,” he said.
(If there were no martial law, it would have been easier for these groups to get reinforcements. With martial law, we were able to impose curfews and checkpoints in selected areas.)
The extension of martial law, if granted by Congress, will be used by the military to “once and for all” quell the threat posed by armed groups to Mindanao.
“We will use this to address all the terrorist groups that supported this rebellion staged, initiated by the Maute-ISIS group…It’s still far from over. If we are going to fix this, let’s fix this once and for all,” Año said.
The military chief is ready to attend any briefing for lawmakers on the requested extension. (READ: Opposition lawmakers hit Duterte’s ‘whimsical’ martial law request)
Both chambers of Congress will convene in a special session on Saturday, July 22, to discuss the extension of martial law. – Rappler.com