MANILA — A military official in the south rejected Thursday calls from higher-ups to place Sulu province under martial law after a double bombing killed at least 15 people there.
Western Mindanao Command chief Maj. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr said there are civilians willing to share information against terrorists, even helping authorities to neutralize 5 suicide bombers.
“With the active participation of local officials down to barangay level, including civilians, we no longer need declaration of martial law,” he told ANC. "Preventing and countering terrorism is a shared responsibility.”
Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana have also rejected the request of military and police leaders for martial law in Sulu, a chain of islands that has long been a stronghold for Abu Sayyaf.
"There will be no martial law," Lorenzana said late Tuesday.
Vinluan earlier said Abu Sayyaf bomb expert Mundi Sawadjaan orchestrated Monday’s attacks. He was also allegedly responsible for the January 2019 explosion at a Catholic cathedral in Jolo that killed 21 people.
Sawadjaan is “still here in Sulu,” said Vinluan.
Listed by the United States as a terrorist organization, Abu Sayyaf is a loose network of Islamist militants blamed for the Philippines' worst terror attacks as well as kidnappings of foreign tourists and Christian missionaries.
"We need support of US and other countries in locating the… elements of terrorist groups here in Sulu,” said Vinluan.
A new law that allows terror suspects to be detained for up to 24 days without charge will also be a “big help,” he said.
With a report from Agence France-Presse