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The incoming Armed Forces chief of staff is open to the proposal of declaring martial law in Sulu and Basilan to finally put an end to the illegal activities of the notorious Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).
But Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, who will assume the top military leadership next month, said there is need to conduct study and assessment among military commanders regarding the matter.
“That is an option. We can study the declaration of martial law in Jolo (Sulu) and Basilan because as we can see, there is a failure of governance,” said Visaya. “So perhaps that is one option that can be undertaken to establish order in Jolo and Basilan.”
A few days ago, outgoing President Aquino admitted that he thought of placing the entire province of Sulu under martial law to save the remaining hostages and eventually address the ASG problem.
But Aquino eventually rejected the idea, saying it does not promise positive results and may even result to more sympathy for the Abu Sayyaf.
Visaya, however, said once martial law is declared, Sulu and Basilan will no longer be haven for kidnappers.
“(Kidnap victims) were being brought there in Jolo so perhaps martial law can also be an answer to prevent the Abu Sayyaf from continuing their kidnapping activities,” said Visaya.
Despite the deaths of its commanders in recent years, the ASG remains a big headache for the government since the mid-1990s.
At least 11 battalions of soldiers have been deployed in Sulu alone.
“We have already enough troops but the problem is the terrain which makes it difficult to hunt them. With the martial law imposition, we can control their movements,” said Visaya.
If he gets a consensus among top military commanders, Visaya said he would not hesitate to recommend martial law declaration in Sulu and Basilan to President-elect Rodrigo Duterte.
Isnilon Hapilo leads the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan while Radullan Sahiron remains the senior leader of those in Sulu.
(AARON B. RECUENCO)