MANILA, Philippines – Speaking as a Mindanaoan himself, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Tuesday, December 12, said he supports President Rodrigo Duterte’s request to extend martial law in Mindanao by one more year, despite the end of military operations in Marawi City.
“They should go to Mindanao. If it’s facts that they want, they should go there,” said Alvarez in a press conference, when asked about critics who have argued that there is no more compelling reason to extend martial law in the southernmost island of the Philippines.
Duterte, himself from Mindanao, placed the entire island under martial law last May 23 after terrorists from the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups overran Marawi City. Duterte declared the city “liberated” on October 17 after terror leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute were killed in a military operation.
In his letter asking Congress to extend martial law for one more year, Duterte said this was needed to “ensure total eradication” of Islamic State-inspired terrorists, armed lawless groups, and “communist terrorists.”
Duterte also cited earlier recommendations made by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) in his letter. (READ: Duterte names obscure terrorist to justify extended martial law)
Human rights groups and even some members of Congress have expressed their opposition to the extension. Alvarez dismissed their concerns.
“It’s like this. I’m from Mindanao. Rebellion, that’s long been a fact in Mindanao. That’s why it’s hard to progress and then you have the problem of terrorism. What happened in Marawi, don’t say that just because the war there is over, there’s nothing to worry about anymore. That wasn’t the end,” he said.
Alvarez, who represents Davao del Norte, cited the continuing “extortion” targeting plantations, mines, contractors, and bus operators, in explaining why martial law is necessary in Mindanao.
To those who argued that those issues could be addressed using normal police and military powers, Alvarez retorted: “They should join the military or the police first before they say that.”
The House Speaker said locals feel “safer” with Mindanao under martial law. “In fact, I’ve noticed that there are more tourists now that Mindanao is under martial law than when it wasn’t,” he added.
The Senate and the House are set to convene in a joint session on Wednesday, December 13, to discuss Duterte’s request.
Asked if the request would be approved by the House, Alvarez said there would be “division” but that the side in favor of martial law would far outnumber those against.
The House is dominated by Duterte’s allies. (READ: Malacañang confident Congress will OK martial law extension) – Rappler.com