DAVAO CITY – Philippine lawmakers have overwhelmingly approved Saturday a resolution that allowed President Rodrigo Duterte to extend martial law until the end of the year in the restive southern region of Mindanao, including three Muslim provinces where Abu Sayyaf militants and pro-ISIS groups actively operate.
It was a “landslide” vote for the joint session of the Senate and House Representatives with 245 congressmen voting to extend the martial rule as against 18 lawmakers, mostly from the opposition and critics of Duterte. And 16 senators also voted in favor of the extension of martial law while four opposition members voted against it.
Majority of lawmakers are allies of Duterte.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who is appointed by Duterte as martial law administrator, said extending martial law is needed to defeat the local ISIS militants who occupied Marawi City on May 23 and are still fighting security forces.
He said martial law is also needed to fight the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, all in the Muslim autonomous region; and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao, also in the autonomous region. The Abu Sayyaf is still holding nearly 2 dozen kidnapped foreigners and Filipinos in the troubled region.
Both the Abu Sayyaf and the BIFF, along with other jihadist groups in the South pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and vowed to put up a caliphate in Mindanao. Some of their leaders participated in the siege of Marawi.
Duterte declared martial law following the siege of Marawi, but he said he never expected the war would take this long. The military insisted it had killed over 400 militants since the start of the war and that nearly 100 soldiers were also slain in the fighting that left about four dozen civilian casualties. The violence displaced over 200,000 people in Marawi, the capital of Lanao del Sur, which is also a part of the Muslim autonomous region. (With reports from Moh Saaduddin and Rhoderick Beñez.)
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