WATCH | Duterte wants martial law extended until Dec 31

July 18, 2017 - 10:57 AM
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Marawi's landscape, devastated by nonstop fighting between government and terrorists, and the punishing strikes mounted by the Air Force. (Reuters)

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE – 12:35 p.m.) President Rodrigo Duterte has asked Congress to extend martial law in Mindanao up to December 31 this year, or 162 days more from July 22, Malacañang said Tuesday.

This is almost three times the length of the 60-day extension Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said Duterte mentioned at a dinner in the Palace for leaders and key members of both houses of Congress the night before.

Duterte has called Congress to a special session on Saturday, July 22, the 60th and last day of the effectivity of Proclamation No. 216, which he issued on May 23, soon after fighting broke out between extremist gunmen and government forces.

At a press briefing, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella read from the letter Duterte sent to Senate President Aquiliino Pimentel III and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

Abella said the extension Duterte seeks is intended not only against the gunmen in Marawi but “all security threats in Mindanao,” although he did not elaborate on this.

The southern island is also home to a strong segment of the communist revolutionary movement, who defense officials earlier said were also a target of Proclamation No. 216.

In his letter, Duterte acknowledged that, “taking into account the reports and recommendations” from Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and the chiefs of the Armed Forces and the National Police, he had “come to the conclusion that the existing rebellion” that prompted him to place Mindanao under martial law “will not be quelled completely” by July 22.

Duterte said “public safety requires” that martial law be extended.

The battle for Marawi is still raging and is likely to continue doing so by the time Duterte delivers his second state of the nation address on Monday, July 24.

As of Monday, July 17, Abella said, the battle for Marawi has claimed the lives of 98 government personnel, 45 civilians and 413 extremists.

He added that 1,723 civilians have been rescued from the battle zone and 511 firearms recovered.

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