The Philippine National Police said Tuesday there may be no need for another extension of martial law in Mindanao after military rule lapses by the end of the year.
PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said the crime rate in Mindanao is on a decline and security forces are able to control the proliferation of loose firearms in the area.
“For now, we see that martial law in Mindanao can be lifted,” Banac said at a press briefing in Camp Crame on Tuesday.
The PNP will submit its recommendation to the National Security Council in December, he said.
He also said a heightened alert status is still needed in some parts of the island.
“The alert level will remain high only in Sulu due to the presence of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group,” Banac said in Filipino.
He added that security officials have yet to discuss the possibility of imposing martial law only in selected areas in the region.
On Monday, Defense Secretary Lorenzana said he is not keen to recommend another extension of martial law in Mindanao but said he would wait for the recommendation from the police and military.
READ: DND not too keen on ML extension
The Defense chief said the enactment of a stronger law amending Republic Act 9372 or the Human Security Act of 2007 is a better option than an extension of martial law.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. earlier said another extension of martial law would no longer be necessary if Congress is able to pass a measure that amends the HSA.
RA 9372, which took effect on March 6, 2007, is meant to provide law enforcement and judicial authorities with the legal tools to confront terrorist threats.
President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23, 2017 following attacks launched by the Islamic State-linked Maute Group in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.
It has since been in effect after Congress, in special joint sessions, voted to approve its extension thrice—from July 1 to Dec. 31, 2017; from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2018; and from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31.
Lorenzana said there are sufficient military and police units to secure Mindanao against further terrorist attacks.
“We have sufficient military and police [units] in the area to ensure that the terrorists can no longer
do a Marawi-type operation. Plus, the LGUs [local government units] are clamoring for its [martial law’s] lifting such as (Davao City) Mayor Sara [Duterte],” Lorenzana said in a message to reporters late Monday.
But Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said Tuesday the amendments to the Human Security Act should not be a prerequisite to the lifting of martial law in Mindanao.
“Do not dangle lifting martial law in Mindanao in exchange for the speedy passage of the Human Security Act,” Drilon said.
“The passage or non-passage of the amendments to the Human Securities Act is not a ground for extending martial law in Mindanao,” he added.
Citing the Constitution, Drilon said martial law may be declared if actual rebellion exists and Congress may extend the declaration if the rebellion persists and public safety requires it.
“That is the only ground for extension of martial law. But it is clear since day one that the martial law or its extension in Mindanao has no basis,” Drilon said.
“It is high time that we lift it and bring back normalcy to the region,” he added.
Drilon said that Congress can revoke martial law any time without amendments to the Human Security Act.
He added that Lorenzana was correct in saying that martial law “has been going on for too long.”
“I hope they will not use martial law to put pressure on Congress to pass the amendments to the Human Security Act… The amendments need thorough debates,” Drilon said.
Earlier, Mayor Sara Duterte Carpio said she was considering asking that her city be exempted from an extension of martial law. With PNAREAD: Martial law in Mindanao deters terror
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