MANILA - Malacañang on Tuesday defended the continuing implementation of martial law in Mindanao, saying it helped end the 5-month war between state troops and Islamic State-linked terrorists in Marawi City.
Speaking to ANC, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the declaration of martial law in southern Philippines was "very much justified" since it empowered the military in retaking the then besieged city.
"Without martial law, we would not have been able to harness the kind of military strength and political will that we showed that resulted in the actual defeat of active Maute members in Marawi," Roque said on ANC's "Beyond Politics."
Roque's comments came following Congress' approval of President Rodrigo Duterte's request to extend martial law in Mindanao for another year to quell the terror threat.
Mindanao was first placed under military rule on May 23 when firefights erupted in Marawi City. It was later extended by lawmakers until the end of 2017 upon Duterte's request.
Atrocities were declared over on October 23, but Duterte requested a year-long extension citing persistent security threats in Mindanao.
The war in Marawi City, the largest urban conflict faced by the military in recent years, left over a thousand people dead, mostly terror suspects, and forced hundreds of thousands out of their homes.
Roque said that while fighting in Marawi had ceased, martial law in Mindanao is still necessary to clear the island of lingering terrorists.
"Intelligence reports indicate that while there is no shooting in Marawi for now, they are regrouping, recruiting. And the President is, in fact, expecting a new round of fighting from Maute," Roque said.
"It's important that the President be allowed to exercise his constitutional power as Commander-in-Chief to repel these very real threats from an international dreaded terrorist group such as the ISIS," he added.
DECIDING ON NEED FOR EXTENSION
The President has also been "very transparent" on how he decided the need to ask for an extension of military rule in Mindanao, Roque said.
"I think the President, relying on the opinion of our men in uniform, agreed that there is factual basis in extending martial law, that is why he asked Congress for an extension," he said, noting that an "overwhelming majority of Mindanaoans" are in favor of extending military rule.
"There's substantial research, which indicates that although the ISIS may have been defeated in a particular battlefield, this does not mean they will go away. They will form other cells and attempt to capture other territories until they actually succeed,
and the problem is not isolated only in the Philippines," he added.