Lifting of martial law in Mindanao 'possible': Esperon

By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

October 25, 2019, 6:16 pm

<p>National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. <em>(File photo)</em></p>

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. (File photo)

MANILA — There is a possibility that the implementation of martial law in Mindanao might be lifted, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said on Friday.

In a press conference in Malacañang, Esperon said another extension of martial law in the war-torn region would no longer be necessary if Congress is able to pass a measure that amends Republic Act (RA) 9372 or the Human Security Act of 2007.

“We are looking at some developments that could give some guidance to us,” Esperon said, when asked if the Duterte government is considering the possible extension of martial law in Mindanao.

“If the [proposed] Human Security Act, as amended, will be passed [by Congress], then we may not need to ask for any extension of martial law, we may not need this kind of martial law,” he added.

RA 9372, which took effect on March 6, 2007, is aimed at providing law enforcement and judicial authorities with the legal tools to confront terror threats in the country.

The Defense and Local Government departments have so far expressed support for some lawmakers’ proposal to amend RA 9372, in an effort to improve the government’s capacity to fight terrorism and ensure public safety in the entire country.

Esperon likewise believes that amendments to the Human Security Act of 2007 should be done, citing that some provisions of the current law are “not user-friendly”.

“The amended Human Security Act, that is a better tool for us,” he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte first placed Mindanao under military rule on May 23, 2017, the same day Islamic State-linked Maute terror group laid siege to Marawi City in Lanao de Sur province.

Congress extended the initial 60-day martial rule thrice, upon the Commander-in-Chief’s recommendation to help state forces quell insurgency in the southern part of the country.

Martial law in Mindanao will lapse on December 31 this year.

Saying that martial law in Mindanao has a “lot of limitations,” Esperon was hopeful that Congress would approve the proposed amendments to RA 9372 before yearend.

“But this martial law that we have now has a lot of limitations, among which you have to get the permission of Congress. And you can only detain suspects for a period of three days maximum,” he said.

Mindanao local chiefs’ assessment for consideration

Malacañang earlier said Duterte's decision on the possible lifting or another extension of martial rule in Mindanao would depend on the recommendation of military ground commanders in Mindanao.

Without the amended Human Security Act, Esperon said the government has to implement martial law in the island.

He said the martial rule remains useful, since it prevents government troops from committing abuses in the southern part of the country.

“There are features in martial law that we could still take advantage, could use. I'd like to assure you that there had been no cases against our troops on abuses on the provisions of martial law as applied in Mindanao,” Esperon said.

Still, Esperon said the fate of martial law will also depend on the assessment of local chief executives in Mindanao.

He said the government might lift martial law, if local officials believe they “do not need it anymore”.

“If local government units, executives would say, we don't need it anymore, then we will take that into consideration,” he said.

Presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte earlier sought the lifting of martial law in her city.

In a letter sent to the Office of the President in August this year, the lady mayor requested the exemption of Davao City from the declaration of martial rule.

Esperon said the government might consider the proposal of Duterte, as well as of other local officials who might make a similar recommendation.

“Now, we have Task Force Davao. Then probably Davao could protect itself and they have learned so much, they have a very good system there,” he said.

“Other cities might also opt not to have martial law anymore so we'll take that into consideration,” he added. (PNA)