Military vows deference to civilian authority despite expanded powers
MANILA- Malacañang on Saturday lauded Congress' decision to grant President Rodrigo Duterte's request to extend martial law in Mindanao until the end of the year as the military guaranteed deference to civilian authority despite its expanded powers.
"We thank Congress for approving the extension of martial law until Dec. 31, 2017," presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
"The extension of martial law is essential to the overall peace and stability. Now that the debate is over, let us get on with the job of nation-building and contribute in the attainment of the full promise of Mindanao," Abella added.
A military official meanwhile assured Mindanaoans that civilian authority would continue to prevail and that human rights would still be respected despite the extended military rule.
"Gusto kong sabihin sa mamamayan sa Mindanao na 'wag sila matakot dahil ang sundalo niyo po ay professional. Lahat po ng actions namin ay anchored sa rule of law," Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera, Joint Task Force Marawi spokesperson, said in a briefing in Marawi City minutes after Congress approved the martial law extension.
"We will ensure that civilian authority ay irerespeto natin. Irerespeto ang rights ng mga kababayan at susundin ang rules ng international humanitarian law," Herrera added.
Herrera appealed to the public for more understanding as government troops continued to flush out extremists still holed up in the inner enclaves of Marawi City two months since the fighting erupted.
He said the focus should be on the battle against terrorism and not on possible abuses of martial law.
"It's not about the martial law but about terrorism. Whether merong martial law or wala ay magpapatuloy 'yung focused military operations dito dahil ang kagustuhan natin dito ay to flush out and destroy the enemy and protect [the] civilian populace from the arm of extremism," he said.
As of July 21, 428 terrorists, 105 government troops, and 45 civilians have been killed in the firefights, while more than 300,000 have been displaced from the city and nearby areas.
Congress on Saturday granted Duterte's request to extend martial law in Mindanao by 150 days despite the opposition of minority lawmakers.