Crush terror before lifting martial law – Lacson


SEN. Panfilo Lacson on Tuesday said the military must be allowed to finish its “final assault” against the remaining terrorists cornered in Marawi City before martial law is lifted in Mindanao.

Some senators said the government must also focus on the reconstruction of war-torn Marawi following President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration that the Islamic City has been “liberated” from the clutches of the Islamic State-linked Maute group.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd said: “A new dawn is coming to Marawi and Mindanao. I look forward to a modern city to replace the old Marawi.”

“Liberating Marawi is the easy part. Now, for the more difficult part which is rehabilitation, reconstruction and recovery,” said Sen. Gregorio Honasan 2nd.

Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito said martial law should not be lifted yet in Mindanao as government troops needed to continue with clearing operations “to make sure that all the terrorists are arrested or neutralized.”

The President declared martial law in Marawi on May 23 hours after the Maute group attacked the city. Congress later extended the declaration up to the end of the year.

Assessment needed

Lacson said the military should finish its mission prior to the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi.

“If there will be terrorists left behind, they can be likened to a wound or bacteria which can be infectious and spread,” Lacson said.

Sought for reaction regarding proposals to lift martial law in Mindanao following the death of Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute, Lacson said, “Let us first assess the full gamut of the Marawi crisis.”

“In lifting the martial law, it is the government forces on the ground who can make the proper proposal because according to them there are still foreign terrorists in the [main battle]area. I think they are already looking at a small area to launch their final assault,” he said.

“So, it depends on their recommendation since they are the ones on the ground. It’s not for me, for you, or anybody for that matter who are not in Marawi City who should assess when to lift the martial law,” Lacson added.

Sotto said martial law was not needed for the rehabilitation of Marawi. “I think the President will lift martial law shortly. We should still be alert and cautious.”

For opposition senator Francis Pangilinan, the government should make rehabilitation of Marawi City a top priority “instead of dwelling on baseless destabilization reports.”

House mixed

Members of the House of Representatives were split on whether or not to lift martial law.

Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta party-list Rep. Jericho Nograles said martial law should remain in effect even after the remaining leaders of the Maute militants have been killed, to allow the fast and uninterrupted rebuilding of Marawi City.

Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez martial rule “should be lifted as soon as possible.”

Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat said the latest developments downgraded the justification for martial law, but conceded that clearance from the troops in Marawi was needed before lifting it.

“The commitment of the security officials during the martial law hearings in Congress is that they will recommend the lifting of martial law once security threat has been downgraded,” Baguilat said.

“But I am willing to await a full military assessment of the situation with the caveat that martial law should be lifted,” he added.

Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers said he would leave it to the President to decide on the matter,
“I will leave it to [Duterte] to assess the threat of terrorist attacks not just in Marawi but all over Mindanao and whatever his decision will be I will support it as a Mindanaoan,” Barbers said.

Rehab is next step

Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano said that with the siege over, the swift and reliable rehabilitation of Marawi should be the next priority.

“The rehabilitation of Marawi City should have a comprehensive, multi-agency plan in order to properly address all fronts. Provision of basic needs, building of houses and infrastructure, and return of economic activity are things that must be acted upon immediately. Psychological services should also be provided for the residents and soldiers who have been in the frontlines and have endured the conflict on the ground,” Alejano said in a statement.

“I hope that the rehabilitation would be swift and reliable. We do not want to add more sufferings to the people of Marawi. May all of us in the government and civil society offer our helping hands to our Maranao brothers and sisters,” Alejano said.