NATIONAL Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. on Thursday, November 8 said extending martial law in Mindanao should be a “last resort” as military rule in the restive region is set to lapse by the end of the year.

According to him, extending the martial law should not be a priority in the mind of security officials and stakeholders when it comes to ensuring peace in Mindanao, despite calls of some Mindanaoans for it to push through.

“We have had discussion with that in the national security cluster but we still would like to think that the extension of martial law should be on a last resort basis,” Esperon said in a media briefing in Malacañang.

He added, ”Extending martial law should not be foremost in our minds. We should prioritize the needs of Mindanao and we are getting all the feedback from the people and it may interest you to know that majority of the people of Mindanao want it (martial law).” 

Earlier, Palace officials said the decision whether to extend martial law would depend upon the recommendation of the security cluster, particularly the police and military on the ground.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief Carlito Galvez Jr. noted that several local government units in the region are in favor of the extension, as reported by CNN Philippines.

“Apparently, most of the local government units are in favor of the martial law in eastern and western Mindanao,” Galvez said during the briefing.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año have expressed their support for another possible martial law extension, as well.

“We are aware that the PNP has come out with a statement of support for the extension as well as the secretary of the interior and local government but let that be part of the recommendations that will go up to the President when it is time to decide and ask Congress for an extension,” Esperon said.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that the martial law has been noted by the military to be of help in the peace and order situation in Mindanao and has “dissuaded” terrorists from carrying out attacks.

However, Vice President Leni Robredo and several senators are opposed to the idea of extending the martial law, saying that it has failed to prevent violence in the region.

The martial law was declared in May 2017 following ISIS-inspired Maute Group’s siege of Marawi City in Lanao del Sur. The declaration lapsed on July 23 that year, before Congress first voted to extend martial law until the end of December 2017. 

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