MANILA -- While he supports the military's recommendation to extend martial law in Mindanao by another year, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Tuesday said he is not inclined to back calls to place the entire country under martial rule.
"No, I will not recommend nationwide martial law. In fact the President said in many occasions that he is not inclined to declare ML nationwide," he said during an interview with CNN Philippines' The Source Tuesday.
The DND chief justified his decision to support the military recommendation to extend martial law in Mindanao by citing the presence of terrorists on the island and the need to neutralize them.
"For one, there are still terrorists lurking in Mindanao, there are still remnants of (the) Maute (Group) since they are very small, it's difficult to look for them and they are still in Central Mindanao and some of them are protected by the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters) in (the) Liguasan Marsh area, there are still ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group) in Jolo and Basilan, not so much in Tawi-Tawi, Tawi-Tawi is a little more peaceful than other islands," Lorenzana stressed.
"Second is the BOL (Bangsamoro Organic Law) plebscite will occur in January (21) and I think we should be there also to protect the plebicite and then there's this mid-term elections," the defense chief added.
Also, the need to extend martial law in Mindanao was heightened by reports that foreign terrorist groups are making incursions at the country's southern border.
"Because we have a very porous southern border, the news is that, although we cannot confirm it on the ground, there are incursions of terrorists coming from Malaysia and Indonesia. but we are still validating this news," he stressed.
Earlier, Malacañang said it would depend on the recommendation of the AFP on whether martial law will be extended after the end of the year.
Martial law in Mindanao was declared on May 23, 2017 following attacks launched by the Maute Group in Marawi City. The House of Representatives, in a special joint session in July last year, granted the extension of martial law until Dec. 31, 2017 at the President's request.
The Senate and House of Representatives, convening in a joint session early December, granted the Chief Executive's request for the extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus for a period of one year from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2018. (PNA)
Photo by Romeo Ranoco/Reuters/Manila Bulletin