MANILA -- "We do not ask for an unlimited martial law. What we are seeking is unlimited peace." 

This is what Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea had to say before lawmakers as he attended the joint session of both houses of Congress on Wednesday to discuss President Rodrigo Duterte’s request for a one-year extension of martial law in Mindanao.

Medialdea said that while there has been "substantial change" in the situation of Marawi City, "the state of rebellion subsists" in Mindanao.

"There is substantial change, but the battlefield has now moved to other places in Mindanao," he said.

Medialdea said remnants of the Islamic State-inspired Da’awatul Islamiyah Waliyatul Masriq (DIWM) are active in recruiting and consolidating their forces in Central Mindanao.

He also cited threats posed by Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), with a total of 89 violent incidents since the year started, as well as remnants of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Zamboanga Peninsula.

Furthermore, he said, communist rebels, particularly members of the New People's Army (NPA), have taken advantage of the Marawi siege and perpetrated at least 385 atrocities in Mindanao since the year started, resulting in the death of 41 state forces and the wounding of 62 others.

"Public safety requires the further extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao in order to quell this rebellion completely," Medialdea said.

"Our armed forces and the police personnel remain steadfast in their commitment as a protector of our people and in their duty to secure the sovereignty of the state and the integrity of the national territory," he added.
Medialdea expressed confidence that Congress would do its share in helping the police and military fulfill their task.

Under the Constitution, Congress, voting jointly, has the sole power to extend martial law. A majority vote of the two chambers -- or at least 158 members -- is needed to approve the President's request for a full-year extension of martial law. (PNA)