MANILA (UCAN): Archbishop Martin Jumoad of Ozamiz, Mindanao, warned against a wholesale lifting of martial law in the southern Philippine region, saying that peace and order are unstable in some areas.
He said that if martial law is to be lifted, it should only be in certain areas but not in the provinces of Jolo, Basilan and Maguindanao and that security officials have to assess the situation in these places if the military has already “neutralised the rebels.”
The Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, placed the whole region under military rule in 2017 following the attack on the city of Marawi by Islamic State-inspired gunmen. The ensuing five-month siege killed more than a thousand people, mostly civilians, and displaced about half a million others.
Delfin Lorenzana, the Philippine defense secretary, said on November 11 that he was no longer inclined to recommend another extension to martial law in the region. However, he said that he would wait for the military and the police to give their input before making his final recommendation to the president.
Although initially imposed for 60 days, martial law was first extended until the end of 2017 and then until the end of 2018. It was again extended to the end of 2019 on Duterte’s recommendation.
Archbishop Jumoad supported the imposition of martial law in the region in the face of opposition by human rights and advocacy groups who said military rule resulted in rights abuses.
“Mindanao needs martial law,” the archbishop said in a previous interview, saying it was “good for us here.”
He said, “Others may not understand us but if you live in Mindanao then your eyes will be opened as to why.”
Local military units had earlier expressed a willingness to propose selective martial law, especially in traditionally volatile areas in the region.
“(Martial law in Mindanao) has been too long, and we can do our job anyway, especially if (Congress) passes (amendments to) the Human Security Act,” Lorenzana said.
He said passage of the proposed measure would “give teeth” to law enforcement and would be a better arrangement than martial law.
Proposed amendments to the Human Security Act of 2007 aim to broaden the definition of terrorism, ease restrictions on surveillance and prolong the lawful detention of terror suspects.