MANILA - The twin blasts on a church in Jolo, Sulu Sunday shows the need to keep Mindanao under martial law, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) told the Supreme Court Tuesday.
The attack is proof of the "continuing danger posed to the public" by terrorist groups, said AFP deputy chief of staff for intelligence Major General Pablo Lorenzo.
"[The attack] demonstrates the continuing danger posed to the public by these terrorist groups while advancing their respective political objectives," Lorenzo told the high court during oral arguments on petitions challenging the extension of martial law in Mindanao.
The oral arguments tackled petitions earlier filed against the extension of martial law in Mindanao until the end of the year and came two days after the church blasts that left at least 21 people dead and over 100 others wounded.
The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the AFP is looking at local terror group Abu Sayyaf as the perpetrators.
"The factual basis for the extension of martial law is anchored on the continuing rebellion being waged by the communist terrorist groups, and the local terrorist groups along with their foreign terrorist allies," Lorenzo added.
Solicitor General Jose Calida also noted that the church bombing is "part of the ongoing rebellion" in Mindanao.
"That is part of the terrorism and rebellion that they (ISIS) are waging against the Philippines," Calida told ABS-CBN News before the oral arguments.
In December 2018, Congress granted for the third time President Rodrigo Duterte's request to extend military rule in Mindanao until the end of 2019 to quell terror groups that "continue to defy the government."
Several opposition lawmakers questioned this new martial law extension, saying the administration had failed to prove that "actual rebellion" exists in the south.
The existence of an actual rebellion is among conditions the constitution requires for the declaration of martial law.
Duterte first declared military rule in Mindanao when firefights erupted between state troops and Islamic State-inspired terrorists in Marawi City in May 2017. The siege ended in October of the same year.
- with a report from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News