READ | Martial law helpful but extremists still capable of great harm – AFP

July 20, 2017 - 2:49 PM
Marawi's landscape, devastated by nonstop fighting between government and terrorists, and the punishing strikes mounted by the Air Force. (Reuters)

MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines said martial law in Mindanao has been helpful in its operations against local terrorist groups but acknowledged that, two months after it was declared, extremists remain capable of inflicting great harm.

This was the gist of the military’s presentation to the Senate, a copy of which was obtained by InterAksyon, during a closed door security briefing Wednesday.

The briefing was requested by the Senate ahead of the special session on Congress on Saturday, July 22, when the 60-day effectivity of Proclamation No. 216 lapses and when lawmakers will discuss and decide on President Rodrigo Duerte’s request to extend martial law until December 31.

Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23, just hours after fighting broke out between extremists from the Maute group and a faction of the Abu Sayyaf, which have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, and who were joined by a number of foreign fighters.

The AFP presentation admitted that, “despite the substantial gains, the objectives set forth under Operation Objective 02-2017 will not be fully achieved within the period of 60 days” defined by Proclamation 216 in compliance with the Constitution.

However, it also made no mention of how long martial law should be extended.

It only said that “martial law with the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus significantly helped the AFP in its operation against local terrorist groups, initially quelling the ongoing rebellion and suppressing the seeds of invasion.”

At the same time, the AFP stressed that the “situation remains highly volatile” for the following reasons:

  • the local terrorist groups’ leadership remain intact in the main battle area
  • groups espousing the same ideology remain active and ready to reinforce or launch diversionary attacks and similar uprisings in other parts of Mindanao
  • foreign terrorist fighters are present in the area

It also acknowledged that the “actual rebellion and manifestations of existence of invasion are not yet fully suppressed.”

Aside from the continued fighting in Marawi, the military said “around 90 terrorists who have slipped past government cordon can link up with other terrorist groups.”

“Young terrorist combatants revealed that (Abu Sayyaf leader and alleged ISIS emir Isnilon) Hapilon allowed the escape of 96 young recruits fighting in Marawi and instructed them to continue jihad outside Marawi,” it said.

From May 23 to July 18, the military said 417 extremists have been killed and 511 firearms recovered.  Aside from these, government forces also recovered P52 million in cash and checks worth P23.7 million, and 11 kilos of crystal meth, or shabu, worth between P110 to P250 million.

On the government side, 97 security personnel have died and another 845 wounded.

A total of 478,761 persons, or 104,438 families, have been displaced by the fighting in Marawi.

The AFP will also conduct a security briefing for Congress on Saturday.