MANILADefense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Tuesday expressed his full support for the Armed Forces of the Philippines' (AFP) proposal to extend martial law in Mindanao for another year, citing the presence of terrorists in the island.
Lorenzana made this justification in an interview with CNN Philippines' The Source.
"For one, there are still terrorists lurking in Mindanao, there are still remnants of (the) Maute (Group) since they are very small. It's difficult to look for them and they are still in Central Mindanao and some of them are protected by the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters) in (the) Liguasan Marsh area. There are still ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group) in Jolo and Basilan, not so much in Tawi-Tawi. Tawi-Tawi is a little more peaceful than other islands," he said.
"Second is, the BOL (Bangsamoro Organic Law) plebiscite will occur (on) January (21) and I think we should be there also to protect the plebiscite. And then there's this mid-term elections," the defense chief added.
The extension of martial law in Mindanao, he said, is aimed at completely eradicating terrorist elements in Mindanao.
Lorenzana clarified that he has yet to receive the formal recommendation from AFP Chief-of-Staff. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. but noted that he was verbally informed by the latter of the plan.
"I haven't received the formal recommendation, but the Chief-of-Staff told me verbally that they are going to recommend for the extension of martial law in the entire island of Mindanao, plus the Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi (area) for another year," he added.
Also, the need to extend martial law in Mindanao was heightened by reports that foreign terrorist groups are making incursions into the country's southern border.
"Because we have a very porous southern border, the news is that, although we cannot confirm it on the ground, there are incursions of terrorists coming from Malaysia and Indonesia. But we are still validating this news," Lorenzana said, adding that he will follow the recommendations of the AFP chief.
Earlier, MalacaAang said it would depend on the recommendation of the AFP on whether martial law would be extended after the end of the year.
Martial law in Mindanao was declared on May 23, 2017 following attacks launched by the Maute Group in Marawi City.
The House of Representatives, in a special joint session in July last year, granted the extension of martial law until Dec. 31, 2017 at the President's request.
The Senate and House of Representatives, convening in a joint session early December, granted the Chief Executive's request for the extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus for a period of one year from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2018. (PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency