Martial Law Extended For Another Year In Southern Philippines

Military vehicles carrying government troops head to reinforce Marawi City in the southern Philippines on Wednesday. ROMEO RANOCO / Reuters via thewashingtonpost

By Ashley Westerman/npr.org – The Philippine Congress has extended martial law on the southern island of Mindanao for another year at the request of President Rodrigo Duterte, who says it is needed to continue the fight against armed groups in the region.

The move was overwhelmingly approved by both the Senate and House of Representatives, where Duterte and his allies hold big majorities. Duterte first imposed martial law in the Muslim-dominated south in May, and Wednesday’s vote extends it through 2018.

Martial law, which extends military authority and allows for warrantless arrests and heightened surveillance, was declared in Mindanao after local militants laid siege to the city of Marawi in May. The battle that ensued between the ISIS-linked Islamists and Philippine security forces lasted five months, displaced over half a million people and left more than 1,100 people dead.

When the siege ground to an end in October, the military declared there were “no more terrorists.” Duterte himself said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby declare Marawi City liberated from the terrorist influence.”

But in his letter to Congress asking for the extension of martial law, Duterte asserted that “the rebellion persists and a lot more remains to be done to … bring back public order and safety in Mindanao.”

The president said his request comes at the recommendation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, which both claim that the militants are regrouping and plotting new attacks.

The Marawi siege highlighted the Philippines’ vulnerability to extremist violence, with some experts declaring that the country has become the weak link in terms of regional security.

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