MANILA (UPDATE) - The chief of the Philippine Army said Tuesday it is "high-time" to again place Sulu under martial law following the twin blasts in Jolo town that left at least 15 dead, a proposal opposed by the provincial chief executive.
Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana made the remark after he was asked if he would recommend the declaration of a state of emergency or martial rule in the area.
"Pareho, dahil kung matatandaan natin, nung dineklara ng ating Pangulo ang martial law, behave yung mga tao. Nung una, nagkaroon ng negative reaction due to the stigma brought about by the 1970s Martial Law. But this time, itong nakaraang martial law, talagang sila na mismo nag-request na kung maaari, maextend pa," he told radio DWIZ.
(Both, because if we can recall, people behaved when the President declared martial law. There was an initial negative reaction due to the stigma brought about by the 1970s Martial Law. But this time, during the last martial law, the people themselves requested for its extension.)
President Rodrigo Duterte declared Martial Law in the entire Mindanao after the May 2017 siege in Marawi City. It was extended thrice until Dec. 31, 2019.
"Siguro it’s high-time na ibalik natin. If I may respectfully recommend to our President through our (AFP) chief of staff and Secretary of National Defense, na kung maibalik o maideklara muli ang martial law doon sa lugar, sa probinsiya ng Sulu dahil sa recent bombing incident na nangyari,” Sobejana said.
(Maybe it's high-time we bring it back. If I may respectfully recommend to our President through our (AFP) chief of staff and Secretary of National Defense to place Sulu under martial law again due to the recent bombing incident.)
The Philippine National Police supported Sobejana’s proposal, with its chief, Gen. Archie Gamboa, saying it would give police and military more flexibility in their law enforcement operations against the perpetrators. Military officials are eyeing the Abu Sayyaf Group to be behind the blasts.
But Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan promptly expressed his objection to a martial law declaration.
“Hindi naman kailangan natin na martial law. Kaya nga tayo nagkaroon na ng anti-terrorism law. ‘Di pa natin nasusubukan. ‘Wag tayong masydadong nerbyosin. Dapat kalmado lang tayo,” he said.
(We don’t really need martial law. That’s why we have an anti-terrorism law already. We have yet to test that. Let’s not be very nervous. Let’s remain calm.)
Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat said military rule is "not the answer after the deadly blasts."
"Gusto lang ng administrasyong Duterte na itulak ang pag-iimplementa ng terror bill na sinasabi nilang makakasugpo sa terrorismo, pero di ito totoo. Sa katunayan, mahuhuli sana ang mga bombers kundi sa in-fighting ng PNP at AFP," she said in a statement.
(The Duterte administration wants to push for the implementation of the anti-terror bill which they tout would resolve terrorism, but this is not true. If it were not for the in-fighting of the PNP and AFP, these bombers would have been apprehended.)
Sobejana said 4 soldiers who were killed by policemen last June were on the trail of 2 female suicide bombers who triggered the explosions.
"Dahil sa nangyari, medyo nakawala po sila sa ating monitoring. Sayang nga ang pagkakataon at ito na, nagresulta na sa hindi maganda. Mayroong mga kasamahan pa nating nasawi at yung mga inosenteng civilian, nadamay pa," he said.
(Due to this incident, they somehow got out of our monitoring. The opportunity was wasted and it resulted into this. Civilians and many of our comrades died.)
Cullamat said that during the Mindanao martial law for nearly 3 years, there were 93 extrajudicial killings, 136 frustrated extrajudicial killings, 6 enforced disappearances, and 1,459 illegal arrests, contrary to government's claim that authorities did not abuse their power.
There were also 35 cases of torture, 28,813 violations against human rights, and 423,538 displaced residents, she added.
"Ang pagdeklara ng Martial Law ay hindi solusyon sa pagsabog sa Jolo, Sulu dahil lalong aabusuhin ito ng mga armadong pwersa ng estado," she said.
(The declaration of martial law will not solve bombings in Jolo, Sulu because the armed forces will only abuse it.)
Meanwhile, the lockdown imposed in the entire municipality immediately after the explosions will be lifted by Wednesday, Jolo Mayor Kerkhar Tan said in an advisory.
Aside from the death of soldiers, policemen and civilians, Monday's blasts in Jolo also left more than 70 troops and civilians injured.
A suspected female suicide bomber allegedly died also during the second blast, military officials have said.
- With reports from Raffy Santos and Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News