Thursday, January 2, 2020

Martial law in Mindanao ends after 953 days

Martial law in Mindanao has ended as 2020 begins after President Rodrigo Duterte decided not to extend it for another year, with his defense chief saying the objective of placing the volatile south under military rule for two years and seven months has been achieved.

In May 2017, Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao after the principal Islamic City of Marawi was stormed by homegrown terrorists loyal to the Islamic State. It was extended for the third time in 2018 and lapsed by the end of 2019 Upon the recommendation of the country’s top brass, Duterte did not ask for another extension of what had already been the Philippines’ longest period of military rule since the draconian regime of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

“They (security officials) are confident that they can maintain the current peace and order in Mindanao and that an attack similar in scale to Marawi cannot be waged by the remnants of the Mautes or by any other terrorist groups in the future,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a statement issued on New Year’s Eve. “The present number of troops will remain as is wherever they are and will continue to collaborate with the [local government units] to sustain peace and stability,” Lorenzana added.

Martial law remains a sensitive issue in the Philippines after it was used by Marcos in the 1970s to perpetuate himself in power.

Some lawmakers had opposed the third extension to martial law, arguing that a prolonged military rule cannot be “the new normal” for Mindanao. Analysts doubt that martial law alone would be enough to stop the growth of terror cells linked to Islamic State in the restive parts of Mindanao, adding that a comprehensive government response is needed to address violent extremism and insurgency. According to a December 2019 opinion poll by Social Weather Stations, 65% of Filipinos backed the lifting of martial law in Mindanao, with 49% of respondents agreeing that “[a]t present, there is no more threat that another Marawi-like terrorist attack can happen anywhere in Mindanao.”