MANILA- Liberal Party President Francis Pangilinan on Saturday called for the inclusion of human rights groups in the resolution extending the 60-day martial law in Mindanao, expecting President Rodrigo Duterte's request to be passed despite opposition by minority lawmakers.
"Maari bang sa resolusyong ito isasama ang isang probisyon na minamandato ang Armed Forces of the Philippines ang Commission on Human Rights in coordination with human rights organizations sa Mindanao ay weekly magsu-submit ng human rights situationer sa Mindanao para mababantayan natin na hindi aabusuhin ang kapangyarihan ng martial law dito sa nasasakupang lugar?," Pangilinan said at the joint session of Congress convened to vote on Duterte's extension request.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, among security officials who appeared as resource persons at the session, welcomed the Senator's suggestion.
"Opo, tanggap po namin 'yan. We welcome the participation of the Human Rights Commission, We also like that so that when human rights (officials) are always there, then our people will be more encouraged to behave properly," he said.
Pangilinan's call came amid reports of human rights violations by the military in Marawi City, where offensives have been ongoing against Islamic State-linked terrorists for two months now.
The Commission of Human Rights meanwhile said at the session that there has been "no categorical report yet" of any case of a human rights violation in the conflict zone.
Pangilinan also raised the matter of possibly limiting martial law to 10 provinces in Mindanao where government forces are fighting terrorist groups, as opposed to the entire region.
"Kung 10 lalawigan ang nabanggit sa 27 lalawigan ng Mindanao, ang tanong po kung ilimita sa 10 lalawigan ang martial law declaration halimbawa, ito ba ay mayroong negatibong epekto sa kampanya ng Armed Forces para po ma-clear na rin ang apat na barangay na napaguusapan?," asked Pangilinan, in reference to the remaining Marawi villages where terrorists are still holed up.
But Lorenzana explained that Mindanao is contiguous and that extending the enforcement of martial law in the entire region would help the military run after terrorist groups wherever they go.
On Pangilinan's questioning, Lorenzana said extending martial law implemention was necessary.
"Yes sir, kailangan pa po kasi hindi pa po natin na-address yung mga kaakibat na mga grupo dyan--yung mga Daesh-inspired groups like the Abu Sayyaf Group, BIFF-Abu Sayyaf Group ng Basilan at Jolo at saka yung BIFF ng Central Mindanao. 'Yun po ang dahilan yung bakit gusto pa nating palawagin yung martial law," Lorenzana, also the martial law administrator, said.
"Huwag natin silang pabayaang lumakas ulit at saka tayo gagalaw. Kung magbabakbakan ulit, mas malaki po ang kaguluhang magagawa," Lorenzana said.
Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23, when fighting erupted between state forces and Islamic State-linked terrorists aiming to establish an ISIS province in the region.
The fighting has left at least 571 dead and roughly 300,000 displaced from the conflict zone and nearby areas.
As the conflict has yet to be resolved with the martial law period set to lapse, Duterte requested to extend military rule until December.
On Friday, Duterte said the fighting may soon be over, while Esperon said the combat zone in Marawi City is now limited within three villages.