Duterte wants martial law extension over ‘evolving’ urban warfare

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte is asking Congress to extend martial law in Mindanao until December because homegrown terrorists in Marawi City are engaging in a “newly evolving” type of urban warfare. 

The House of Representatives released a copy of Duterte’s letter to Congress on Wednesday, July 19. 

In his letter dated Tuesday, July 18, Duterte said he is requesting Congress to extend martial law in Mindanao until December 31, after a “thorough personal assessment” of the situation in Marawi City and other parts of the region. (READ: Duterte's letter to Congress asking for martial law extension)

The President said he also considered the recommendations of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Eduardo Año, and Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director-General Ronald dela Rosa. Lorenzana and Año are the administrator and implementer of martial law in Mindanao, respectively.

Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23, after government troops clashed with members of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf terrorists groups in Marawi during operations against Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon. 

In his letter to Congress, Duterte said the rebel groups took up arms “for the purpose of removing Mindanao from its allegiance to the government.” 

“Indeed, the crisis in Marawi City has introduced a newly evolving type of urban warfare – one that is characterized by the rebels’ total disregard for civilian lives, cruelty to combatants and non-combatants alike, and widespread looting and pillaging of occupied communities,” said Duterte. 

“This type of urban warfare has caused a significant number of casualties on both sides and a huge destruction of property, both public and private, more importantly, the house-to-house firefights have slowed down the advance of government forces and their mopping up operations,” he added. (READ: Marawi battle zone: Urban warfare challenges PH military

High-powered, military grade weapons

The President said that from May 23 to July 10, the AFP’s operations had neutralized 379 out of 600 rebel fighters, which Duterte said also included members of the Ansarul Khilafah Philippines (AKP) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Duterte referred to the Maute Group, ASG, AKP, and BIFF as the Da’walul Islamiyah Waliyatul Masriq (DIWM) that have ties with international terrorist group Islamic State.  

Duterte said the rebels possess high-powered and military-grade weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades and a large supply of ammunition.  

He cited the reported entry of more weapons, ammunition, and supplies for the terrorists in Marawi City, and that some private armed groups and supporters had extended help to them. 

The President said the authorities already recovered 329 firearms and around 1,722 Marawi residents have been rescued. Sixteen barangays were also cleared of rebel presence. 

But Duterte said these are not enough to lift martial law by July 22, the end of the 60-day maximum period set by the 1987 Constitution.

“Despite the progress and significant strides that we have achieved against the DIWM and its symphatizers, however, the rebellion persists and a lot more remains to be done to completely quell and bring back public order and safety in Mindanao,” said Duterte. 

The House of Representatives and the Senate will hold a special joint session on Saturday, July 22, to discuss Duterte’s request for the martial law extension. The President counts a majority of lawmakers as his allies. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the Senate and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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