MANILA- Minority lawmakers on Saturday said they would vote to extend the period of martial law in Mindanao provided that it would only be up to 60 days.
"I will definitely move for a shorter period of time, but hindi iyon deadline na ini-impose namin sa inyo na by that time, dapat ubos na ang kalaban," Sen. Bam Aquino said in interpellating martial law administrator and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana during Congress' special joint session on the martial law extension.
"Kung 'yung extension mas mahaba sa original na 60 days, what will stop any President- I'm not talking about President Duterte- to extend the declaration to 15 years and suspend everything in the process?" Buhay Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza said when it was his turn to speak.
Fighting erupted in Marawi City on May 23 after the Islamic State-linked Maute terrorist group tried to overrun the Islamic city to establish an ISIS "wilayat" or province.
President Rodrigo Duterte asked the legislature to extend the imposition of martial law in Mindanao until Dec. 31 as government troops have yet to flush out remaining extremists holed up in 3 barangays in Marawi City.
Earlier Saturday, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said a 150-day extension is unnecessary as government forces managed to wipe out terrorists from 16 barangays in Marawi City in 60 days.
"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 said.
"If we ask for a shorter period and we have not yet achieved what we want to achieve, we can no longer go back to Congress to ask for an extension," Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea told lawmakers.
But Atienza corrected Medialdea and said: "The request for extension is unlimited if they fail to accomplish their mission."
Aquino said limiting the extension to 60 days would allow Congress to fulfill its constitutional mandate to decide on behalf of the people if martial law was still warranted to resolve the situation in Mindanao.
"Maganda magkita every 30 to 60 days upang pag-usapan ang mga bagay-bagay na ito sa harap ng publiko," Aquino said.
Liberal Party president and Sen. Francis Pangilinan admitted that opposition blocs in both the Senate and the House of Representatives do not have the numbers to gun down the proposal for an extension.
"Ako ay naniniwala na ang boto namin ay iilan lamang at maipapasa rin itong resolusyon na ito," he said.
Pangilinan said the least the minority lawmakers could do was to limit martial law to 10 out of 27 provinces in Mindanao, where government forces are fighting terrorist groups, as opposed to the entire region.
Martial law administrator and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana did not oppose proposals to limit the martial law extension by 2 months, but said that it should still cover the entire Mindanao.
"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 (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters)-Abu Sayyaf Group ng Basilan at Jolo at saka yung BIFF ng Central Mindanao. 'Yun po ang dahilan kung bakit gusto pa nating palawagin 'yung martial law," Lorenzana said.
"Huwag natin silang pabayaang lumakas ulit at saka tayo gagalaw. Kung magbabakbakan ulit, mas malaki po ang kaguluhang magagawa," Lorenzana added.
The long-drawn fighting in Marawi City 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.