MANILA- National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. on Saturday assured lawmakers that extending martial law in Mindanao until the end of the year would neither disrupt democratic processes nor violate human rights in the restive southern region.
"This is not the martial law that we had before. The martial law that we have now is to protect the people of the Mindanao," Esperon told lawmakers who convened Saturday in a special joint session on the proposal to extend the martial law.
Esperon made the assurance after Sen. Risa Hontiveros reminded the legislative body that Duterte had earlier said his martial law would not be different from the martial rule of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.
The reign of Marcos, who imposed authoritarian rule in 1972 and was toppled by a peaceful revolution in 1986, was marked by killings, enforced disappearances and other human rights violations.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier 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.
"Local officials are still there. The courts are functioning. We have not suspended anybody there. They are helping us, we are helping each other. Congress is in session," Esperon said.
Martial law administrator and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana thanked lawmakers for openly discussing concerns with security officials.
"We welcome this interaction with Congress. Sana kahit walang kaguluhan, magkikita pa rin tayo regularly. This is a very healthy thing if the military and Congress will keep talking about our security," Lorenzana said.
Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23, when fighting erupted between state forces and Islamic State-linked terrorists aiming to establish an ISIS province in the region.
The 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.