Thursday, July 13, 2017

Military hints at extension of martial law in Mindanao

From CNN Philippines (Jul 13): Military hints at extension of martial law in Mindanao

The Philippine military on Thursday said there may be a basis to extend martial law in Mindanao.

Armed Forces of the Philippines Spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said the assessment to prolong or lift military rule in the southern Philippines is based on objectives that were given to the military when it began its operations against the ISIS-linked Maute group on May 23.

"Martial law, when it was imposed, provided a set of conditions that we should meet at the end of martial law," Padilla told CNN Philippines "The Source" in an interview.

"Now whether those conditions were met, whether those objectives were achieved is something that will be part of the assessment," he said.

He expressed doubt that the military has achieved the primary objective of destroying the Maute group's network and capabilties.

This could be a basis for the extension of martial law in Mindanao.

"For one, you needed to quell the rebellion definitely, and second you needed to degrade the capability of this group to launch another sort of similar activity elsewhere, and you need to destroy the network," Padilla said, explaining the objectives of the military's operations in Marawi City.

"So in as far as the network is concerned , I cannot confidently tell you that we have already taken care of that. So that can perhaps be a basis for the extension," Padilla added.

President Rodrigo Duterte, based on the recommendation of government security forces, imposed martial law in Mindanao on May 23, 2017 when the Maute group seized Marawi City, the provincial capital of Lanao del Sur. This was considered an act of rebellion under the Constitution, which allows martial law for a period of 60 days. The 60-day limit lapses on July 22.

Related: AFP assessing military rule in Mindanao as 60-day limit looms

On July 11, the President, speaking to the business community at the Philippine Stock Exchange, said the Marawi crisis would be resolved in "10 to 15 days."

Related: Duterte sees Marawi crisis ending in 10-15 days

Padilla backed up the President's remarks, saying the commander-in-chief's information came from ground commanders leading the military operations.

"This is from the ground commanders' perspective as well which was passed on to the President," Padilla said. "Kaya itong 10 to 15 days, malamang nanggaling ito sa ating ground commanders at ito'y ibinahagi. May basehan 'yan. Sisikapin natin," he added.

[Translation: This 10 to 15 days, most likely this came from the ground commanders and this was shared (with the President). There's a basis for this. We will try our best.]

However he added that the 10-to-15 day deadline "goes beyond the SONA, by the way, and not prior to the SONA," referring to the President's second State Of the Nation Address on July 24, which is two days after the 60-day limit.

The military is now focusing its operations on flushing 80 Maute fighters believed to be holding out in some four barangays in Marawi City, Padilla said. He added that two of these barangays were considered the terror group's centers of "command and control" and were harder to penetrate.

Duterte has said that any decision to extend military rule in Mindanao will depend on the military's assessment, which is in the stages of being finalized.

Padilla said a part of the assessment was with AFP Chief of Staff General Eduardo Año. "Some of it is with General Ano. I think he's finalizing the report and putting his own input into the recommendations," the AFP spokesperson said.

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