MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte is open to lifting martial law in Mindanao even before the year ends, the government's top lawyer said Wednesday.
Defending the extension of martial law at the Supreme Court, Solicitor General Jose Calida said the President is open to restoring civilian rule in Mindanao if rebellion on the island is quelled sooner.
"If the conditions are right your honor, then yes, I think the President will lift it," Calida told Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta at the resumption of oral arguments on petitions challenging the constitutionality of the extension of military rule in Mindanao until the end of the year.
In December, Congress approved President Rodrigo Duterte's request to extend martial law anew in Mindanao just before the lapse of its first extension on Dec. 31.
He had sought to prolong military rule until the end of 2018 citing remaining security threats in the restive region despite the end of hostilities in Marawi City.
The President had placed the entire Mindanao under martial rule on May 23, when firefights between state troops and Islamic State-linked terrorists erupted in the city.
Calida, however, noted that military intelligence provides that a year is needed to address terrorist threats in Mindanao.
"I was informed that based on the recommendations of the military, the PNP (Philippine National Police), the intelligence community, that we need 1 year in order to quell the rebellion," he said.
Petitioners had earlier argued that the extension of martial rule is "unconstitutional" as it lacks factual basis, citing the absence of actual firefights in Mindanao.
In July, the High Court upheld Duterte's initial martial law declaration.