By: Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos
President Duterte has formally asked Congress to extend Proclamation No. 216 placing Mindanao under martial law and suspending the writ of habeas corpus for 60 days until the end of the year “as public safety requires it.”
In a letter to Senate President Koko Pimentel and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Duterte said that the threat of terrorism in Mindanao cannot be quelled completely by Saturday.
Thus, Duterte said, he is asking Congress to extend Proclamation No. 216 until December 31, 2017 following the assessment of the current situation in Mindanao and the recommendation of the Department of National Defense.
“I request the continued support of both Houses of the Congress to achieve our common goal of protecting and preserving the integrity of our Republic,” Duterte said.
Duterte said despite the progress and significant strides achieved by government troops against the enemy, rebellion persists and “a lot more remains to be done to completely quell the same and bring back public order and safety in Mindanao.”
Duterte was referring to the clearing of 16 barangays in Marawi City, recovery of R75 million in cash and checks in an operation, neutralization of 23 members of the Abu Sayyaf Group and 18 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, recovery of 47 firearms, and arrest of 66 individuals affiliated with the terrorists in checkpoints.
He also noted the arrest of Cayamora and Ominta Maute, parents of the Maute Group leaders, and Adel Sarip Maute; and the arrest of Mohammed Khayyam Maute.
According to Duterte, the Islamic State sympathizers continue to offer armed resistance in Marawi and other parts of Western and Central Mindanao and that around four barangays are still under the control of the rebels.
He said that the militants have holed up in mosques, madrasahs or educational institutions, and hospitals, restricting the government troops’ offensive moments as they have to consider the safety of civilian hostages and trapped residents nearby.
The President also noted that the leadership of the Maute Group remains intact despite the considerable decline in the number of militants fighting in the main battle area.
“Terrorist groups from various parts of Mindanao sympathizing with the same ideology remain active and are ready to reinforce Isnilon Hapilon’s group or launch diversionary attacks and similar uprising elsewhere,” Duterte said.
Hapilon is the leader of the ASG who is still hiding in Marawi according to the AFP.
Duterte said that there are indications that the terrorists are “vigorously recruting” from other lawless armed groups, terrorist elements, and their families and supporters, to add to their ranks and replace those who have been killed or arrested.
He said that the rebels have been found to possess high-powered and military-grade weapons and a large supply of ammunition.
“There have been reported entries of reinforcements, weapons, ammunition, and other logistical supplies from outside Marawi City through clandestine routes. Private armed groups and supporters of some sympathetic local politicians are likely to continue extending their assistance,” Duterte said.