MANILA (UPDATE) - Martial law could be lifted in Mindanao after nearly 3 years, police said Tuesday, while the interior and local government department sought military rule in selected areas in the region.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said he was not inclined to recommend another martial law extension in the restive south, and instead called for a tougher anti-terrorism law.
The Philippine National Police agreed, and said it would make its official recommendation in December, according to its spokesman Police Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac.
"Napakaganda na ng kalagayan ng peace and order situation sa buong kapuluan ng Mindanao," he said.
(The peace and order situation in Mindanao has improved.)
"Sa ngayon nakikita natin na maaari nang tanggalin na ang martial law sa Mindanao."
(Right now, we see the possibility of lifting martial law in Mindanao.)
Banac added that the PNP remains alert in Sulu and other areas where there is suspected Abu Sayyaf presence.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, meantime, proposed extending martial rule in select areas where there are threats of attacks from the Islamic State and Abu Sayyaf.
"Nakita natin na mukhang hindi kailangan i-extend sa buong Mindanao, kailangan siguro dito selective na lang kung saan meron pang natitirang threats ng ISIS at Abu Sayyaf," he said.
(There seems to be no need to extend martial law in the whole Mindanao, maybe we need to be selective to where there are remaining threats of ISIS and Abu Sayyaf.)
Lorenzana was correct in saying that martial law in Mindanao “has been going on for too long,” but its lifting should not be used to “put pressure on Congress to pass the amendments to the Human Security Act,” Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said.
Lorenzana earlier said amending the Human Security Act to prolong the period of detention for alleged terrorists to 30 days would be a "better arrangement than martial law.”
“Do not dangle lifting martial law in Mindanao in exchange for the speedy passage of the Human Security Act,” Drilon said.
“The non-passage of the amendments to the Human Security Act should not be used as a basis or justification to further extend martial law. The amendments need thorough debates,” he said.
“It is high time that we lift bring back normalcy in the region.”
President Rodrigo Duterte first placed his home region under martial law in 2017, following clashes in Marawi City between government forces and Islamic State-inspired militants.
Duterte sought a martial law extension for the whole 2018, and another until the end of 2019.
—Reports from Katrina Domingo, Zhander Cayabyab and Henry Atuelan, ABS-CBN News