MANILA- Government has no plans to expand martial law to Luzon and Visayas despite rebel attacks in other parts of the country even as Congress deliberates on extending military rule in Mindanao until the end of the year, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Saturday.
Responding to Sen. Francis Pangilinan, Lorenzana, also the martial law administrator, said expanding military rule outside Mindanao would not happen despite recent incidents in other regions, including attacks of the Abu Sayyaf group in Bohol, and the presence of communist rebels across the country.
"Hindi po mangyayari 'yan," Lorenzana said under Pangilinan's questioning.
In April, residents spotted armed men in the town of Inabanga in Bohol. The AFP later disclosed that the group was supposed to carry out kidnapping activities in the area.
Communist rebels have meanwhile continued attacks against government forces over recent months, prompting President Rodrigo Duterte to stop peace negotiations with the Left.
Pangilinan asked Lorenzana about the scope of martial law citing the recent New People's Army attacks.
"Ang NPA po ay kumikilos sa Luzon, Visayas at Mindanao. Kung ito ho ba ay magiging operational directive ay ibig sabihin ay darating ang panahon na pwede rin magdeklara ng martial law sa Luzon?" Pangilinan asked.
Lorenzana said: "Sa una pong martial law, 'di po kasama ang NPA. Pero kasama po sa function namin whether martial law or not, ay i-address namin ang problema na binibigay ng NPA."
The defense chief was among security officials who appeared as resource persons before the joint session of Congress on extending the period of martial law until the end of the year.
Duterte sought the extension as state forces and Islamic State-linked terrorists were still engaged in firefights in Marawi City two months since the fighting erupted.
The long-drawn fighting has left at least 571 dead and roughly 300,000 displaced from the conflict zone and nearby areas.
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.