Mindanao to remain under martial law

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Soldiers walk past destroyed buildings in Bangolo district, Marawi City in this Oct. 17 photo after President Rodrigo R. Duterte declared the city “liberated from the terrorists.” -- AFP

MINDANAO, the Philippines’ second-largest island, will still remain under Martial Law, the Palace announced on Friday, days after President Rodrigo R. Duterte declared the liberation of Marawi City that was recently overrun by a terrorist group.

“There are remnants, including networks supporting the Maute – the Maute cause within Mindanao. The President is duty-bound not to compromise public safety,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto C. Abella said on Friday.

Mr. Duterte would still confer with the members of his Cabinet Security, the Justice and Peace Cluster in particular, to come up with a decision whether to lift the Martial Law or extend it until the end of the year, Mr. Abella said.

For his part, during the same briefing Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Spokesperson Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla, Jr. also clarified that there are still units deployed in certain parts of Marawi to continuously ensure security during the rehabilitation and reconstruction.

Mr. Padilla also welcomed the surrender of the relative of slain Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who led a siege of the city. Hapilon and one of the two Maute brothers Omarkhayam Maute were killed this week in a firefight between government forces.

“We are happy to note that there is some sense entering into the minds of all these relatives who bear arms and who have been part of the network. And as the days go by, let this be (the) good message to all these armed individuals and armed elements,” he said, referring to the surrender of Ben Salina Sapilin, a cousin of Hapilon.

Mr. Padilla had confirmed the death of the Marawi siege financier Dr. Mahmud Ahmad.

“He died during the assault of our troops the other day – or the other night, where 12 other rebels died,” Mr. Padilla said in a separate statement on Friday.

Mr. Padilla also announced that the military “will be shifting our forces to other areas for their required training and for their scheduled batallion or unit activities.”

The First Infantry Battalion, one of the first military units to have arrived in Marawi during the siege, has been sent off to return to Luzon, for a much-needed break, Mr. Padilla said. They will also go on a long-delayed training in Fort Magsaysay to enhance their skills and prepare for the next mission. — Rosemarie A. Zamora