Philip­pines to ex­tend mar­tial law in south un­til year end

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

Manila, Philip­pines - The Philip­pine Congress on Satur­day voted to ex­tend Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte’s dec­la­ra­tion of mar­tial law in the south un­til the end of the year to de­feat gun­men.

In a special joint ses­sion of the House and the Se­nate, leg­is­la­tors over­whelm­ingly backed Duterte’s bid to have mar­tial law re­main in force in the Min­danao re­gion un­til De­cem­ber 31.

The vote came as troops con­tin­ued their two-month long fight to wrest back the south­ern city of Marawi from Is­lamic State-in­spired mil­i­tants.

Duterte’s spokesman Ernesto Abella thanked Congress for its vote, say­ing ‘the na­tion has cho­sen to stand united in de­fend­ing the Repub­lic’.

‘The ex­ten­sion of mar­tial law is es­sen­tial to the over­all peace and sta­bil­ity’, he said in a state­ment.

Al­though op­po­si­tion leg­is­la­tors ques­tioned gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials for hours on the le­gal­ity of the move, the vote was largely a fore­gone con­clu­sion as Duterte en­joys ma­jori­ties in both houses of Congress.

“We may wake up one day and mar­tial law will be in force in the whole coun­try,” Se­na­tor Franklin Drilon said af­ter the vote.

A slide pre­sen­ta­tion ac­com­pa­ny­ing Duterte’s re­quest, seen by AFP, com­pared the Marawi cri­sis to the Is­lamic State takeover of the Iraqi city of Mo­sul.

Marawi it­self could now be­come a mag­net for for­eign fighters in Iraq and Syria, it said.

Most of the mil­i­tant lead­ers re­main at large, the pre­sen­ta­tion added, while about 90 of the gun­men have slipped past se­cu­rity cor­dons and can link up with other armed groups in the re­gion to mount sim­i­lar widescale at­tacks.

At the hear­ing, de­fence and se­cu­rity of­fi­cials jus­ti­fied the ex­tended mar­tial law, say­ing that aside from Marawi, IS mil­i­tants were plan­ning at­tacks in other parts of Min­danao.

In Marawi, the mil­i­tary said only about 60 gun­men were left in a 49-hectare area of Marawi, but Duterte said he needed mar­tial law pow­ers to re­build the city and en­sure the war did not spread else­where.

“I can­not af­ford to be com­pla­cent,” Duterte told re­porters on Fri­day, adding the mil­i­tary would be con­duct­ing fur­ther ‘mop­ping up op­er­a­tions’ even af­ter they re­cap­ture Marawi.

“If there is a spillage it will not be as bad if you have this stop­gap,” he added.

Duterte im­posed 60-day mar­tial rule - the max­i­mum pe­riod al­lowed by the con­sti­tu­tion - over the Min­danao re­gion on May 23 within hours of the gun­men be­gin­ning their ram­page.

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