MANILA - Extending martial law in Mindanao should be a “last resort”, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperson Jr. said Thursday, as military rule in the restive region is set to lapse by the end of the year.
Esperon said extending martial law, declared in May 2017 following the siege of Marawi City, should not be foremost in the mind of security officials and stakeholders when it comes to ensuring peace in Mindanao.
He said martial law would be extended if “dictated by the situation and the desire of the people.”
“We have had discussion with that in the national security cluster but we still would like to think that the extension of martial law should be on a last resort basis," Esperon said in a Palace news conference.
"Extending martial law should not be foremost in our minds. We should prioritize the needs of Mindanao and we are getting all the feedback from the people and it may interest you to know that majority of the people of Mindanao want it (martial law),” he added.
Esperon said relevant government agencies were now studying the possible extension of martial law in the region, a move that would require another congressional approval.
President Rodrigo Duterte had first declared martial law in Mindanao in May 2017 after firefights between state forces and Islamic State-inspired terrorists erupted in Marawi City.
It was first extended in July of the same year and again in Dec. 2017 on Congress' grant, as government cited the lingering threat of extremism in the region.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año have already voiced support for another possible martial law extension.
“We are aware that the PNP has come out with a statement of support for the extension as well as the secretary of the interior and local government but let that be part of the recommendations that will go up to the President when it is time to decide and ask Congress for an extension,” Esperon said.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo had said the military noted that martial law has helped in the peace and order situation in Mindanao and has “dissuaded” terrorists from carrying out attacks.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea earlier said extending martial rule in the south was an "option" in the wake of an explosion in Sultan Kudarat that killed at least 3 people.
Vice President Leni Robredo and several senators, however, were opposed to the idea, saying the current martial law has failed to prevent violence in the region.