MANILA, July 22 — Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on Saturday explained before the Congress’ special joint session the basis of President Rodrigo Duterte’s request for a five-month extension of the period of martial law in Mindanao, laying out the reasons why a longer period is “more practical”.
“I think it would be better if we ask for a longer period than for a shorter period, which we cannot deliver a promise, then ask again for an extension, which can no longer be done. I think it would be more practical to ask for a period until Dec. 31,” he said.
Medialdea was responding to the interpellation of Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon who wanted an explanation as to why there is a need for a five-month extension when reports show that more than half the number of rebels have already been neutralized.
He said that reports and recommendations of martial law administrator and implementor, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief-of-Staff Eduardo Año, have concluded that “the existing rebellion in Mindanao has not been completely quelled and public safety requires Proclamation 216 declaring a state of martial law and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus be extended”.
The executive secretary cited four reasons why a five-month extension of the period of martial law is necessary.
First, he said, is that rebel groups, such as the Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf, “continue to offer armed resistance in a new type of urban warfare, using high-powered weapons”.
Second is that “rebel groups’ leaderships have remained intact and at large” and that terror groups from various parts of Mindanao are also “prepared to supply and reinforce” them.
The third reason he cited is the presence of foreign terrorists who provide financial resources and reinforcement, and the fourth is that key personalities have yet to be neutralized, while others have escaped.
“The Constitution has given us the necessary tools to address the situation we are now faced. In behalf of the President, I implore Congress to enable the president to continue the task he has started and fulfill his promise to bring peace to Mindanao,” Medialdea said.
Drilon, in his interpellation, asked Medialdea to confirm if there is indeed rebellion or invasion in the region to justify an extension.
He also wanted to know if the basis for extension involved efforts to dismantle illegal drug syndicates and spoilers, as they do not appear to be part of rebellious groups.
Medialdea pointed out that during the two-month period when martial law prevailed in Mindanao, several volumes of illegal drugs were confiscated from rebel groups.
“A large volume of drugs were taken from the rebel groups, as well as a large amount of money… We should (also) look into this,” he said.
Drilon, however, expressed concern that if martial law is extended to illegal drug syndicates, there is the possibility that it could be extended elsewhere.
Medialdea was firm in saying that illegal drugs supported the rebellion.
“There is a showing that they’ve (Maute Group) been using drugs as a means of funding their operations,” the executive secretary said.
He further explained that aside from the Maute Group, other groups are hitting the armed forces left and right.
“There are still 1,200 manpower of the rebel group operating in Mindanao. We cannot see the location they are going,” Medialdea said.
Aside from Drilon, Senators Risa Hontiveros, Francis Pangilinan, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, House of Representatives Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, ACT Rep. Antonio Tinio and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman among others also interpellated. (ANP/FMC/PNA)