ASEAN Beat | Politics | Security | Southeast Asia

Will Martial Law Finally End in the Southern Philippines?

The Philippines’ defense chief has recommended that the president not extend martial law for the fourth time following its expiry at the end of 2019.

Will Martial Law Finally End in the Southern Philippines?
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Philippine defense chief says he has recommended that the president not extend martial law in the country’s south, which was declared in 2017 to help troops quell a bloody siege by Islamic State group-aligned jihadists in Marawi city.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he told the president on Wednesday that Muslim militants have been weakened considerably and are no longer able to carry out an attack like the Marawi siege.

President Rodrigo Duterte has extended the martial rule three times, and it is due to expire at year’s end. While Duterte has said this is required to quell extremism and rebellion, the approach has also raised concerns on several fronts, including in terms of how security forces are able to make arrests and detentions.

Lorenzana said security conditions have improved in southern island provinces that used to be deeply troubled by the militants. He said ending martial law would encourage foreign investors who have stayed away from the south because of it.

The comments follow previous comments that Lorenzana has issued on the subject to the same effect. In November, he had said that he was “not inclined” to recommend the extension of martial law, and that he would make a more certain determination following recommendations from the military and the police before December.

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With Lorenzana’s recommendation clear, the focus will shift to Duterte’s final decision. Last month, Duterte told a press briefing at the presidential palace that he will leave it to the military and police to make the recommendation on whether or not to lift martial law, since it “is a military thing” and based on “their assessment or evaluation of the Mindanao situation.”

By The Associated Press, with additional reporting by The Diplomat.