MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) – Extending martial law in Mindanao is an option after the deadly bombing in Sultan Kudarat, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said on Wednesday, August 29.
“It’s an option. We’re trying to make it as easy as possible na walang ganito pero kung ganito pa rin ang nangyayari, ano’ng gagawin natin? Upo lang tayo diyan (It’s an option. We’re trying to make it as easy as possible so that things like this won’t happen but it’s still happening. What will we do? Do we just do nothing)?” he told reporters a day after the incident.
The bomb explosion in Isulan town on Tuesday killed at least two people and wounded 37 others. It happened while the town was celebrating its Hamungaya Festival, and while Mindanao remained under martial law.
When asked, Medialdea said that he would “not necessarily” recommend another martial law extension, but it was an option being considered since the recent bombing is a worrisome development.
“‘Yung mga signs na ganito hindi maganda ‘yan eh. You want mga lives and limbs in danger na lang and sa piyesta pasasabugin ka? How would you feel? (This isn’t a good sign. You want lives and limbs in danger, and an explosion during a fiesta? How would you feel?)
Malacañang is still assessing what issuances need to be made given the deadly explosion, said Medialdea.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said the Palace condemns the bombing.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the bombing in Sultan Kudarat last night. Authorities are now investigating the incident and we vow to bring the perpetrators of this brazen attack to justice. We will apply the full force of the law,” said Roque.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) also condemned the attack, particularly blaming the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
In its emailed statement, the AFP said: “We believe that the terrorist group BIFF is the primary suspect behind this atrocity. They are the ones who have the strongest evil desire to initiate this kind of attacks that victimize innocent civilians and disrupt peace. Kung may tunay silang ipinaglalaban, why victimize civilians? (If they are fighting for a worthy cause, why are they hurting civilians?).”
The entire region of Mindanao is currently under martial law until December 31 this year. If martial law is again extended, it will be the third extension.
After Duterte proclaimed martial law in Mindanao on May 23, 2017, the first day of the siege on Marawi, he asked for and was granted a 5-month extension. His second request for a one-year extension was again granted in December 2017.
Malacañang defended the extensions, saying the military needed more time to quell terrorist groups in Mindanao.