By Roy Mabasa
Malacañang on Monday released a copy of President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s letter to Congress requesting to extend the validity of martial law in Mindanao for another year, citing threats from ISIS-inspired groups and the communist rebels.
In a letter addressed to Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, the President justified that further extension of the implementation of martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao will help military and the police and all other law enforcement agencies to “quell completely and put an end to the ongoing rebellion on Mindanao and prevent the same from escalating from other parts of the country.”
“Public safety indubitably requires such further extension, not only for the sake of security and public order, but more importantly to enable the government and the people of Mindanao to pursue the bigger task of rehabilitation and the promotion of a stable socio-economic growth and development,” Duterte said in his letter dated December 8, 2017.
Duterte said martial law administrator Defense Secretary DelfinLorenzana recommended a one-year extension of martial law to “ensure total eradication of the DAESH-inspired Da’awatul Islamiyah Waliyatul Masriq, other like-minded local and foreign terror groups and armed lawless groups, the communist terrorists and their coddlers, supporters, and financiers.”
In his letter, the President said the recommendation was based on the security assessment made by the AFP, and a separate evaluation from the PNP.
Duterte said he is seeking an extension of the validity of martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus from December 31, 2017 to December 31, 2018, “or for such other period of time as the Congress may determine, in accordance with Section 18, Article VII of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.”
Despite the death of the Maute brothers and Isnilon Hapilon, Duterte said there are remnants of the terror group who have continued to rebuild their organization through the recruitment and training of new members and fighters to carry on the rebellion, noting that 185 of those who were listed in the martial law arrest warrants have remained at-large, “in all probability, are presently regrouping and consolidating their forces.”
NPA, Turaifie group
Another concern is the Turaifie group, which he said, has been “monitored to be planning to conduct bombings, notably targeting the Cotabato area. The group’s leader is said to be Hapilon’s potential successor as emir of DAESH Wilayat in the Philippines and Southeast Asia.
Furthermore, Duterte said the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF) continues to defy the government by perpetrating at least 15 violent incidents during the martial law period in Maguindanao and North Cotabato. This year alone, the President said the BIFF has initiated at least 89 violent incidents, mostly harassments and roadside bombings against government troops.
Duterte also cited the remnants of the Abu Sayyaf Group remain a security concern in Mindanao, especially in Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and Zamboanga Peninsula. The ASG, on the other hand has conducted at least 43 acts of terrorism, including attacks using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), harassments and kidnappings this year which resulted in the killing of eight civilians, three of whom were mercilessly beheaded.
The President also included in the list of security threats in Mindanao the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).
The NPA has perpetuated a total of at least 385 atrocities in Mindanao this year resulting in 41 deaths and 62 wounded on the part of government forces.
Apart from other killings and atrocities involving the NPA, the Chief Executive said 59 arson incidents were carried out this year by communist rebels in Mindanao, targeting businesses and private establishments, and destroying an estimated P2.2 billion of properties.
Go after looters
The Metro Marawi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MMCCI) vice president Solaiman L. Matonding is supporting the extension of martial law in Mindanao for “security reasons” but says government must ensure victims of looting and human rights abuses are “given justice.”
Matonding, president of the Marawi Association of Internally Displaced Business Persons Association urged government to look into the looting allegedly perpetrated by members of the Armed Forces (AFP) in Marawi.
He said they likewise seek justice for victims of looting and human rights abuses and that culprits must be prosecuted, otherwise “it won’t be wise to extend” martial law in Mindanao.
Stolen items included, among others, money, pieces of jewelry, sala sets, appliances, jars, decorations and even wooden doors made of “narra.”
“Terrorists don’t have cargo trucks to transport these things, only the military is capable of that,” Matondingsaid.
He recommended to Task Force BangonMarawi the creation of a special body that will investigate possible abuses of the police and military and avoid “extortion by men in uniform” and establish a Marawi Inventory on Properties Damaged Board (MIPRODAB) to conduct an official assessment of actual damage to private properties and business establishments.
Matonding added they seek indemnification to all victims in the business sector.
TheMarawi Chamber estimated losses in the business sector could reach P8.8 billion.