MANILA - The chief of the Philippine Army on Sunday dropped his proposal for a martial law declaration in Sulu following twin explosions that left at least 15 dead and scores injured.
Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said "there might be better options" even as the military "realized substantial gains on our security efforts" during his stint as commander of Joint Task Force Sulu in 2017 when the entire Mindanao was under martial rule.
"I always give due respect to the wisdom of our national leadership and the sentiment of the general public," he said in a statement, in an apparent reference to objections to his proposal by various officials and sectors.
A day after the Aug. 24 bombings in Jolo town allegedly perpetrated by the Abu Sayyaf Group, Sobejana said it is "high-time" to again place Sulu under martial law, with the police later supporting the proposal.
Malacanang had said President Rodrigo Duterte will consider the law enforcers' recommendation.
But the local government, as well as many senators, congressmen and other government officials, promptly expressed opposition to the idea.
“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,” Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan earlier 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.)
Citing what he said were the gains in Sulu during the May 2017 - December 2019 martial rule after the Marawi siege, Sobejana said the military reduced the number of kidnap victims from 54 to 3, while "a number"of Abu Sayyaf leaders were neutralized and more than a hundred rebels surrendered.
"Convergence of efforts among stakeholders was enhanced and the religious and traditional leaders, as well as the community as a whole were very supportive and cooperative to our peace efforts," he said.
Even as he withdrew his earlier proposal, Sobejana said the military remains "committed to protect the interest of our Tausug brothers and sisters and the rest of the Filipinos."