Mindanao will enter the New Year no longer under martial law but still under a state of national emergency, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said hours before military rule in the area and 2019 bowed out.
In a statement, AFP spokesperson Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo said martial law in Mindanao would end by 11:59 p.m. of Tuesday, December 31, more than two years after it was declared by President Rodrigo Duterte on May 23, 2017.
However, Arevalo said Proclamation No. 55 was still in effect to address any incidence of violence and lawlessness occur in Mindanao after the martial law expiration.
"Under such declaration, President Duterte has placed the entire Mindanao under a state of national emergency on account of lawless violence," Arevalo said.
Duterte in September 2016 issued Proclamation No. 55, declaring a state of national emergency on account of lawless violence in Mindanao. It was done after a bombing incident in his hometown Davao City just a few months into his six-year presidency.
“Together with Memorandum No. 3, this means they can still implement curfews, establish checkpoints. Our security forces will still be able to accurately respond to the threats,” Bangsamoro Transition Authority member of parliament Zia Alonto Adiong said.
Memorandum No. 3 mandates the Department of National Defense and the Department of the Interior and Local Government to coordinate the immediate deployment of additional forces of the AFP and the Philippine National Police "to suppress lawless violence and acts of terror in Mindanao and prevent such violence from spreading and escalating elsewhere in the country.”
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the present number of troops in the southern Philippines would remain in the area even after martial law, according to him, achieved its objective of ending the rebellion in Marawi and nearby areas.
"For those who have openly come out with statements for the extension of martial law let me assure them that the AFP will continue to safeguard the hard-earned peace and stability in the region," Lorenzana said.
"The present number of troops will remain where they are and will continue to collaborate with the LGUs to sustain peace and stability," he added.
Lorenzana thanked Congress for approving the extension of the martial law three times.
"I would also like to thank the people of Mindanao for their wholehearted support for martial law and their full cooperation during its implementation," Lorenzana said.
Arevalo said the AFP was "confident of an improved security climate in Mindanao that will work for the benefit of fellow Filipinos."
"Specifically, where martial law was an issue, it is expected to boost economic activities due to added investors’ confidence," Arevalo said.
Arevalo urged local chief executives and their constituents to build on the gains of martial law in Mindanao and to maintain strong security in the region.
"Our people can then be assured that the Armed Forces of the Philippines will deploy to suppress any and all forms of lawless violence to prevent them from spreading and escalating not only in Mindanao but elsewhere in the Philippines," Arevalo said.
"[Our] fellow Filipinos can expect that the AFP will continue to push for the amendment of the Human Security Act especially with Senate President Vicente Sotto III assuring the passage of the new Anti-Terrorism Law," he added.
Duterte placed the entire island of Mindanao under martial law after ISIS-inspired Maute group attacked and destroyed Marawi City.
However, despite the defeat of the terrorist leaders in October that year, martial law is still in place in Mindanao after Congress approved Duterte's request to extend it thrice, until December 31, 2019. —NB, GMA News