Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Monday said he is not inclined to recommend extending martial law in Mindanao.
On the sidelines of the send-off ceremony for Southeast Asian (SEA) Games contingents in Camp Aguinaldo, Lorenzana said he would however still wait for the recommendation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).
“We are waiting for the recommendation of the Armed Forces at saka ‘yung PNP, depende sa kanilang recommendation but kung ako lang, I will not anymore recommend the extension... Matagal na masyado e,” Lorenzana told reporters.
Lorenzana said it would be better if Congress can pass a tougher Human Security Act for law enforcement.
“We can do our job naman especially if the Senate or Congress can pass the Human Security Act para mabigyan ‘yung ating law enforcement. That’s a better arrangement,” he added.
Asked for reaction, AFP spokesman Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo said the military supports the discretion of the Defense chief.
“Siyempre, the AFP is a bureau under the Department of National Defense. Kung ‘yan ang paninindigan ng ating Secretary, we are always supportive of his decision. But we are sure that the Secretary has taken into account many variables para magkaroon siya ng ganoong position,” Arevalo said.
Arevalo, however, said the final decision is up to President Rodrigo Duterte. He added that the AFP is still conducting consultations among local commanders and local government officials on whether there is a need to extend martial law in the region.
“Nagpapatuloy ang ating consultations. Kailangan nating gawin ‘yun from the top; hindi natin alam situation from the ground. We have to get inputs from the local government units kasi sila naman ang nagbe-benefit dito,” Arevalo said.
In Malacañang, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said at a news conference that Duterte would “defer to the advice or recommendation of those on the ground.”
Mindanao was placed under military rule in May 2017 after the ISIS-inspired Maute group attacked Marawi City.
It was initially valid for 60 days. However, Duterte requested Congress to extend it thrice.
Martial law in Mindanao is expected to end on December 31, 2019. — with Virgil Lopez/KG/RSJ, GMA News