THREE senators spoke out in favor of maintaining martial law, even though the top terrorist leaders in the Marawi siege have been killed.
In separate statements, Senators Panfilo Lacson and Juan Edgardo Angara said only the Defense Department and the Armed Forces of the Philippines could recommend the lifting of martial law because they have access to intelligence information.
“They’re the ones on the ground. It’s not for me or for you, or anybody for that matter who is not in Marawi City to judge if we should lift martial law,” Lacson said in Filipino in an interview with GMA News.
Angara said lawmakers were not privy to the intelligence information that the AFP and the Defense Department have.
“[Hapilon and Maute’s deaths] will be a factor in the recommendation to lift martial law in the future but we do not want to preempt any decision by the AFP, DND or executive to recommend lifting. They are also privy to information and intelligence not commonly available,” he said.
Senator JV Ejercito said it was “advisable” that martial law continue until it expires on Dec. 31.
“Martial law shouldn’t be lifted yet in Mindanao. Government troops have to continue clearing operations and make sure all the terrorists are arrested or neutralized,” Ejercito said.
Opposition Senators Francis Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros, on the other hand, said it would be better to bring back normalcy to Marawi and the rest of Mindanao soon.
Hontiveros said the deaths of Hapilon and Maute should convince the government to lift martial law.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said that they need to assess the situation in Mindanao first before recommending to the President the lifting of martial law.
“We may be announcing the cessation of hostilities within this week and then after that we will find out, we will assess what the entire Mindanao if there is a need to recommend to the President the lifting of martial law,” he said.
Military spokesman Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla, in a Palace briefing, said martial law would still be needed as state troopers battled the remaining 20 to 30 terrorists in Marawi City.
Padilla added that state forces are monitoring possible threats involving other parts of Mindanao, including retaliatory threats posed by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, which operates in Maguindanao and Cotabato.
“There still remains a part of the network that continues to exist in other parts of Mindanao like Jolo, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, and other parts of Lanao as well as Maguindanao and Cotabato, which needs to be addressed continuously for that threat to be managed,” Padilla said.
Earlier, Duterte warned that areas controlled by the BIFF, who also pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, were the most likely to receive a spillover from the conflict in Marawi City.
Padilla said that foreign terrorists were still among those who remain inside the main battle zone in Marawi, including Malaysian professor-turned-terrorist Mahmud Ahmad, known to be the Filipino terrorists’ financier and link to the IS leadership in the Middle East.