MANILA - Martial law extension will help secure areas scheduled to vote in a plebiscite for the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), a peace advocate said Thursday.
Francisco "Pancho" Lara Jr., senior adviser of International Alert Philippines, said people in Muslim Mindanao mainly back martial law because it has been able to curb the spread of illegal weapons.
"Basically there is support for it because of one particular issue e—the ability to capture weapons. 'Yun lang talaga e," he said in a press conference.
But the critical issue, Lara said, is the government's plan to extend martial law not just to "critical areas" but also to the entire Mindanao.
He said that even if there's no martial law, the government can simply deploy additional troops to sustain military presence in areas deemed critical in the BOL plebiscite and in the May 2019 midterm polls.
"What is critical in the issue of martial law is the plan of government to extend it to all of Mindanao. That’s what we cannot understand," Lara said.
"To be able to prevent violence in the plebiscite and in the [midterm] election, the level of military presence should be maintained in those areas, whether within martial law declaration or not," he added.
Lara said they have already monitored "incidents of violence" in several areas in Mindanao. He said their group will be coming up with a report on the data they have gathered.
The Philippine military and national police earlier said they will be recommending the extension of martial law in Mindanao to President Rodrigo Duterte.
Duterte initially declared martial law in Mindanao when the siege of Marawi erupted in May 2017. Congress voted to extend it until the end of that year.
Lawmakers again voted to extend martial law until the end of 2018, after Duterte cited the need to quell alleged terrorist threats in the restive south.