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Lorenzana refuses to back Mindanao martial law extension for now

Rambo Talabong
Lorenzana refuses to back Mindanao martial law extension for now
(UPDATED) Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana says his position may change in the next few months

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana does not recommend the extension of martial law in Mindanao, the defense chief himself announced on Wednesday, August 29.

Ngayon (Now), I will not recommend extension,” Lorenzana told congressmen during the budget briefing of his department at the House of Representatives.

He was replying to Mindanaoan lawmaker South Cotabato 2nd District Representative Ferdinand Hernandez, who asked whether the Armed Forces “can only do [its] job during martial law.”

This is a change to a firmer tone for the defense chief, who earlier said in the same house hearing that he is “not sure” about backing the measure.

Talks of extending martial law began Wednesday morning with Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea saying that extension of military rule was an optional response of the government to the Isulan, Sultan Kudarat bombing, which left two dead and at least 35 injured Tuesday evening.

The explosion follows a Basilan bombing on July 31.

The twist:  Lorenzana may change his position in the next few months.

“Now I do not know what will happen from now up to the end of the year..If they (terrorists) will be able to retrieve more fighters from the outside na pumasok dito (to come here), that remains to be seen,” Lorenzana said.

The defense secretary noted, however, that extending martial law needs to be done with caution.

“It’s because martial law is like the last, the extreme measure that the government uses. I think it should not be used lightly if we don’t need to use it,” Lorenzana said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Is martial law effective? Lorenzana said that martial law is, so far, “working” in Mindanao.

Armed Forces of the Philippines chief General Carlito Galvez noted a spike in the confiscation of loose firearms, and the apprehension and surrender of more communist rebels.

Lorenzana added that even “the citizenry” and local officials of Mindanao have so far given positive feedback since the enforcement of military rule triggered by the Marawi siege in May 2017.

“Martial law is actually a good tool that local officials can use also because there are some towns and cities that enforce curfew. In the cities, we let them decide whether they will effect curfews,” Lorenzana said.

Philippine National Police chief Director General Oscar Albayalde earlier expressed openness about the measure. When asked for Albayalde’s stand, he said “Why not?

Vice President Leni Robredo, meanwhile made an early warning, saying that martial law does not stop terrorism.

Martial law in Mindanao is valid until December 31, 2018– Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.