ILOCOS SUR—President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday he is open to extending martial law in Mindanao if local officials would recommend it.
He said that “Mindanao continues to be a problem” even after 2 years since martial law was declared in the restive south.
“I am not advocating for any continuance of the martial law. But if the local government units, the governors, mayors and even congressmen, would find it that it would be to the best interest of the Filipino in Mindanao, I would not hesitate to say yes,” the President said in a speech in Candon City, Ilocos Sur.
He also mentioned security threats from groups being linked to terror group ISIS.
“Now, ‘yung Abu Sayyaf, Maute, they are all ISIS. They have pledged allegiance to a very corrupt and empty and stupid religious ideology. They do nothing but kill and destroy,” Duterte said.
“You know, it’s not easy to say it in public pero parang sampal sa atin ‘yan kaliwa’t kanan, every day that there is a hostage there. So I had an agreement with the military na maglagay ako ng isang division, so it might improve things. Well, if they want killing, I told the military, 'Give it to them,'” he added.
The president, meanwhile, is optimistic about striking an agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to attain peace in Mindanao.
“I have yet to talk to Misuari. But ang napakaganda naman sa loob sa puso ni Misuari, he is ready to talk anytime. He has remained firm about declaration of a revolutionary war. But overtime he has mellowed down and every time we talk he said that, 'Well, Mayor…' I call myself 'mayor' everywhere 'if you find in your heart to agree with me this year, ipatawag mo lang ako,'” Duterte said.
During his speech, the president praised the bravery of Ilocanos who are part of the military, while saying he has yet to meet a soldier from Cebu.
“Alam mo talawan sa Bisaya? Duwag. Magtanong ako, 'May Cebuano dito?' Wala talaga ni isa. G***** no contribution to our [laughter] nation-building. Totoo ‘yan. I don’t why but that’s how it is. You can ask the military,” he said.
In May 2017, Mindanao saw the break out of the country’s fiercest conflict since World War 2, when an alliance of extremists seeking to create an Islamic State enclave attacked and held Marawi City through 5 months of government air strikes and ground offensives.
Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao in the wake of the Marawi City siege.
The original martial law declaration was supposed to last only for 60 days, as indicated in the Constitution, but Congress voted to extend it until the end of 2017 to help troops end the siege.
In late 2017, Duterte requested for another extension until the end of 2018, saying the militants were regrouping despite the end of clashes.
In Dec. 2018, Congress had granted for the third time Duterte's request to extend martial law in Mindanao until the end of 2019 to quell terror groups that "continue to defy the government."