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DND chief: Martial law 'imperative' to end crisis
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana confirmed telling senators that security forces can contain the Maute terrorist group in Marawi City even without martial law, but clarified that President Rodrigo Duterte's declaration of military rule is still necessary to address security threats in the entirety of Mindanao.
In a statement on Wednesday, Lorenzana emphasized that martial law is "imperative to once and for all address security concerns in the entire Mindanao immediately and decisively."
"The situation currently being dealt with by state security forces goes beyond Marawi City.
President Duterte's imposition of martial law aims to put an end to the long-running rebellion in various provinces in the south, as evidenced by the incidents that happened in Zamboanga, Davao, Bohol, Lanao, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi and Maguindanao," the Defense chief said in a statement.
Lorenzana made the clarification a day after opposition senators told reporters that there is no need to declare martial law in Mindanao as security officials assured them that the Maute group will be neutralized by next week.
He also reiterated the President's pronouncements that martial law would solve the country's long-standing problems.
"As the President has repeatedly said, "if I declare martial law, I'm going to finish all of this," referring to threats posed by ISIS-linked local and foreign terrorist groups whose network covers the entire Mindanao," Lorenzana said.
Duterte placed Mindanao under martial law last week after Islamist extremists went on a rampage amid a botched military operation against Isnilon Hapilon, a top terrorist leader, in Marawi City.
In his speech at Jolo, the President earlier said that he would ignore Supreme Court and Congress as he enforces martial law across Mindanao, saying that he would only listen to the recommendations of the Armed Forces and the police regarding martial law.
In an earlier interview with reporters upon his arrival from Russia, Lorenzana said that Duterte had thought of declaring martial law as early as November 2016 to combat the Islamic State.
Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri on Wednesday said his colleagues in the Senate minority did not tell the whole story when they held a press conference about Lorenzana's admission.
"With all due respect to my colleagues in the minority, it was taken out of context. They did not complete Secretary Lorenzana's answer," Zubiri told GMA-7 in Filipino.
Zubiri also said the opposition senators should not have even divulged what was said in an executive session.
He added that he believed martial law was needed to stop Islamist terrorists from spreading terror in Mindanao.
Also on Wednesday night, the House of Representatives adopted a resolution expressing its support for Duterte's declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
The House, sitting as a committee of the whole, drafted and agreed on House Resolution 1050, which "finds no reason to revoke the President's declaration" as contained in Proclamation 216.
Palace officials led by Lorenzana met with House leaders and members led by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to brief lawmakers on the situation in Marawi City that was attacked by Maute group terrorists.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said the military could ably address the Marawi siege in "probably one or two weeks."
But Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, an opposition lawmaker, said the resource persons from the executive department and the military were unable to establish a credible, factual basis for the declaration of martial law.
For instance, Lagman said, Lorenzana merely reiterated in his briefing to the House that he did not recommend to President Duterte the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
Opposition lawmakers also said the President should be careful about making statements to the effect that he would ignore Congress and the Supreme Court if they opposed the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
But Alvarez assured the public that Congress would not allow Duterte to abuse his power and authority under martial law.
Alvarez, in his speech during the House of Representatives as a committee of the whole to discuss the martial law imposition of the President, also rallied House members to give their full support to Duterte in his effort not only to crush the terrorism threat but also addressing the roots of the decades-long conflict in the South.
"Our present Constitution provides sufficient safeguards to prevent abuses by agents of the state. Moreover, we give the public our assurance that we are keeping a watchful eye upon the unfolding of events and will step in as a counter-balance should and when the need arises," Alvarez said.
Alvarez, secretary-general of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan, also defended President Duterte for saying that he would ignore Congress and Supreme Court once if they contradict his martial law declaration in Mindanao.
"Colleagues, let us extend to the President the aid which he needs. Let us also do our part and legislate lasting solutions to the problems we face. We owe this to the people of Marawi City. We owe this to the people of Mindanao. We owe this to the people of the Philippines," Alvarez said.
Palace officials led by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Lorenzana met in an executive session with lawmakers to talk about the content of the martial law report.
Also on Wednesday, the opposition in the Senate backed away from its original position and said it would not question the declaration of martial law before the Supreme Court to insulate the issue from politics.
In a voting Tuesday night, 12 senators objected to the conduct of a joint session while only nine of them favored it.
With the defeat, Senator Franklin Drilon admitted no joint session would take place because the House said it won't agree to a joint session either. "It takes two to tango. So that's out," Drilon said.
He said, however, that the opposition would support other legal scholars who might question martial law before the Supreme Court.
"My personal view is that I don't want it to be tainted with politics. Let the other legal scholars do it. That's my view given the very tense environment that we are in today, very partisan," Drilon said.
The Senate minority leader said they don't want any case with the Supreme Court to be tainted with partisanship because it's a constitutional issue and "we want it to remain that way."
[Source: By John Paolo Bencito, Maricel V. Cruz and Macon R. Araneta, Manila Standard, Manila, 01Jun17]
Islamic paramilitary organizations
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