But Medialdea cites 'urban warfare' in Marawi, other possible attacks in Mindanao
MANILA- Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Saturday questioned why martial law in Mindanao should be extended until the end of the year when state forces have managed to clear most parts of Marawi City in two months.
"If 379 of 600 DIWM (Daesh) rebels were neutralized in 2 months, why do we need 6 months to defeat the remaining rebels in the conflict area?" Drilon asked Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, who appeared at the special joint session of Congress Saturday to explain the need to extend martial law in Mindanao.
President Rodrigo Duterte had on Tuesday called on Congress to extend the 60-day martial rule in Mindanao until the end of the year as government troops have yet to fully flush extremists out of war-torn Marawi City.
Fighting erupted between state forces and Islamic State-linked terrorists in the city on May 23, leaving at least 571 dead and thousands displaced from the conflict zone and nearby areas.
On Friday, Duterte said the fighting may soon be over. National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. meanwhile said the combat zone in Marawi City is now limited within three villages.
"(In two months), 16 barangays were cleared, only four barangays remain under the control of the terrorists. The factual basis for the request for the period of extension cannot be supported by facts," said Drilon, the first among minority lawmakers to question Duterte's request at the special session.
In response, Medialdea said "urban warfare" has made fighting terrorists holed up in mosques, strategic towers, and underground tunnels more difficult.
"This is the first time we encountered such a situation wherein civilians are being forced to fight. It would be better if we ask for a longer period than ask for a shorter period, then ask for an extension again," Medialdea said.
The official added that martial law should still cover the entire Mindanao as the extremists and their sympathizers may launch diversionary attacks in other parts of the region.
"We cannot foresee the location where they are going. (They struck) even in Inabanga, Bohol which is part of the Visayas," Medialdea said.
But Drilon argued that under the Constitution, "actual rebellion or invasion," and not just imminent danger, must exist in an area that will be placed under martial law.