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Extension of martial law until end of 2017 sought

By GENALYN KABILING

Faced with the lingering threat of rebellion in Mindanao, President Duterte is seeking the extension of martial law in the troubled region until the end of the year.

The President has sent a seven-page letter to Congress leaders about his request for a five-month martial law extension, admitting the government is unable to put an end to the threat posed by terror groups by July 22.

Proclamation No. 216 on the 60-day martial law in Mindanao aimed to quell lawless violence and rebellion, signed by the President last May 23, will expire this Saturday. Duterte recently asked Congress to convene a special session to consider an extended martial law in the interest of public safety.

“I have come to the conclusion that the existing rebellion in Mindanao which has prompted me to issue Proclamation 216 on 23 May 2017 will not be quelled completely by 22 July 2017, the last day of the 60-day period under Section 18, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution,” Duterte said in the letter.

“For this reason and because public safety requires it, I call upon the Congress to extend until 31st of December 2017 or for such a period of time Congress may determine the proclamation of martial law and the suspension for the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao,” he said.

The President’s decision on the longer martial rule was reached after his “thorough personal assessment” of the situation in Marawi City and other parts of Mindanao as well as consideration of the recommendation given by top defense, military and police officials.

By extending the martial rule in Mindanao, Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said troops could continue with their operations “unhampered with deadlines.” It would also allow government forces to focus more on the liberation of Marawi City and its eventual rebuilding plans, according to Abella.

“It would have to deal with local terror groups and anything that threatens public safety in Mindanao,” he said about the proposed martial law extension.

Asked if the security threat was clear and present, Abella said: “Enough to be able to declare that it should be extended.”

“The President has been prescient in seeing this and so it’s something that while it can be of concern, we can also be confident in the fact that he’s taking a proactive action regarding the matter,” he said.

“He is not being reactive, he’s actually being proactive regarding the declaration of martial law all over Mindanao,” he said.

When asked if the President will go to special session of Congress to explain his position, Abella said the President has already issue date letter but “may join” the proceeding.

The President’s letter to Congress, signed last Monday night, contained a summary report on the security situation in Mindanao.

He said the letter also includes “a chronological presentation and insights” that lead to a conclusion about the necessity to extend martial rule in the south.

“There is no direct references to new forces but except there is a possibility, there is a looming situation in Mindanao which needs to be totally and completely addressed,” he said.

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