MANILA - Martial law helped maintain peace during the village and youth elections in parts of Mindanao last May, a poll watchdog conceded Thursday, but said this did not mean it should be extended.
Congress on Wednesday granted President Rodrigo Duterte’s request to continue military rule in the southern Philippines for another year.
Among those who supported the extension argued that martial law could help prevent violence during the plebiscite for a new Bangsamoro Organic Law and the midterm elections next year.
Lawyer Rona Caritos, executive director of poll watchdog Lente, acknowledged that martial law “really helped in the peaceful conduct” of the barangay and youth elections in Marawi City earlier this year.
“Kasi nga, dahil mahigpit, ang daming mga nahuhuli na may mga baril especially in the checkpoints,” she told a news conference.
(Because it's strict, many were caught with firearms especially in the checkpoints.)
“So that’s one good thing with the extension of martial law.”
But Caritos insisted that authorities could still go after illegal firearms “even without the imposition of martial law.”
“Yung [The] peaceful conduct of the election, it does not outweigh the disadvantages of extending again martial law for another year in Mindanao,” she said.
Duterte first declared martial law in Mindanao when firefights erupted between state troops and terrorists in Marawi City in May 2017.
The original martial law declaration was supposed to last only for 60 days, as indicated in the Constitution, but Congress voted to extend it until the end of 2017 to help troops end the occupation of Marawi City.
In late 2017, Duterte requested for another extension until the end of 2018, saying the militants were regrouping despite the end of clashes.