Philippines: Still no timeline for lifting martial law in Mindanao

Police question a two-vehicle convoy of humanitarian volunteers who earlier ignored their checkpoint to rescue residents trapped in the fighting between government troops and Muslim militants who continue to hold their ground in some areas of Marawi city for almost a week Monday, May 29, 2017 in southern Philippines. Philippine forces control most of the southern city where militants linked to the Islamic State group launched a bloody siege nearly a week ago, authorities said Monday, as the army launched airstrikes and went house-to-house to crush areas of resistance. AP/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines — Despite the military’s claim that the Maute terrorists have weakened, there is no timeline for the lifting of martial law in Mindanao because of “compounding developments” that place civilians at risk, Malacañang said on Saturday.

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao last May 23 after Islamic State-inspired Maute militants launched a series of attacks in Marawi City. The declaration has sparked fears of human rights abuses but officials maintained that all actions related to martial law would comply with the Constitution.

Security forces have repeatedly missed their self-imposed deadlines for retaking the city but claimed that the capability of the terrorists have been degraded because of relentless military operations.

“We also take cognizance that enemy resistance continues to dwindle and enemy-held areas continues to grow smaller as the troops advance,” Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella told state-run Radyo Pilipinas on Saturday.

“However there are compounding developments like the use of civilians as human shields and mosques as staging areas and safe havens,” he added.

Asked if the dwindling of the Maute terrorists means that martial law in Mindanao would soon be lifted, Abella said: “As far as the Palace is concerned, the Executive branch wishes for all of this to end as soon as possible. However, the bottom line still is martial law is public safety, public safety as mandated by the Constitution.”

“Right now, as mentioned earlier, compounding developments continue…Therefore, the schedule for the lifting of martial law is whether or not it is already totally, completely guaranteed or sufficiently guaranteed for the safety of the general public or not,” he added.

“We won’t give a timeline for that. Our indicator is whether the public is already safe,” Abella said.

On Friday, the military admitted that some members of the Maute group may have escaped from Marawi City and entered Iligan City and Cagayan de Oro by blending with evacuees. Security officials, however, insist that the militants are no longer capable of launching attacks as massive as the ones they mounted in Marawi City.

A total of 225 Maute militants and 59 government troopers have been killed since fighting flared up last May 23. The clashes have displaced more than 63,000 families or about 309,000 persons. About 2,000 people remain trapped in the battle-ravaged city.


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2 Responses to “Philippines: Still no timeline for lifting martial law in Mindanao”

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