Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea on Wednesday said the government is considering the extension of martial law in Mindanao following a deadly explosion in Sultan Kudarat.
The top Palace official said extending martial law and suspending the writ of habeas corpus remains an option. “It’s an option,” Medialdea told reporters in an ambush interview after the budget hearing of the Office of the President.
“We’re trying to make it as easy as possible. But if such a thing happened, what will we do? Will we just sit around?” he added.
Two people, including a 7-year-old girl, were killed, while 34 others were wounded on Tuesday night following the blast owned up by the Islamic State (IS), a claim still being investigated by security forces.
The attack in the capital town of Isulan occurred almost a month after a suicide bombing carried out by a suspected Moroccan for the Abu Sayyaf Group ripped through Lamitan City, Basilan, killing 10 people and wounding 13 others.
National Police (PNP) chief Director General Oscar D. Albayalde has put all police forces in Mindanao under red alert, although the region is still under martial law. Metro Manila was also put under heightened alert.
The PNP chief said they were investigating whether the latest bombing, which was blamed by Malacañang on the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), was a terror attack, adding they have prior reports about plans by jihadists to stage attacks in
The BIFF, through its spokesman, Abu Misry Mama, however, disowned any responsibility to the bombing, pointing it instead to the soldiers so that the blame would be put on the group.
“None of us are involved there. The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters do not commit acts that will hurt most people, that is why we do not have any involvement there,” Mama said.
In an interview after a budget hearing at the House of Representatives, Albayalde also said he is open to the possibility of extending martial law for peace and security in Mindanao.
“For me, nothing bad happened with the imposition of martial law there. I think, it’s part of peace and security in the area,” Albayalde said.
“In fact, it has probably improved the economic development of the area…. Then why not?” the PNP chief said.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani T. Zarate warned that floating the possibility of further extending martial law in Mindanao as early as August due to the bomb blast in Sultan Kudarat can be exploited to ensure the victory of administration allies in next year’s midterm elections.
“The bomb explosion in Sultan Kudarat is definitely highly condemnable, but this should not be used to further the agony of the people of Mindanao, particularly the displaced Moro, lumads and peasants. This incident even showed martial law’s failure in solving the island’s security problems; instead of extending, it should be immediately lifted,” said the Davao-based solon.
“The bomb incident should be investigated, but at the same time we must ensure that this is not used by unscrupulous people for their own vested political interests,” Zarate added.
With security officials citing that rebellion has not been quelled in the southern region, the 17th Congress last December voted to extend martial law in Mindanao for the entirety of 2018.
Convening in a joint session, the Senate and House of Representatives—through Resolution of Both Houses No. 13—granted President Duterte’s request for a martial law extension for a period of one year from January 1, 2018, to December 31, 2018.
President Duterte signed Proclamation 216 imposing martial-law and suspending habeas corpus in Mindanao on May 23, 2017 following the attacks of IS-inspired Maute Group in Marawi City.
Section 18 of Article VII of the Constitution empowers the President to declare martial law and suspend the writ of habeas corpus only “in case of invasion or rebellion, when public safety requires it.”
Capt. Arvin Encinas, spokesman for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division), said the explosion occurred at around 8:30 p.m. infront of the H and J Marketing along the national highway right after two people whom security forces accosted left the area.
The two men, whose identities were not ascertained, were accosted by roving militiamen after leaving a bag in front of the establishment.
The bomb went off just as a military truck bearing soldiers was passing by.
“More could have been killed or wounded had the side of truck not [been] armored plated,” he said, adding a militiaman and two soldiers were also wounded in the blast.
The US-based SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors online the activities of terrorists and jihadists around the world, said the IS has claimed responsibility for the latest bombing in Mindanao.
With Manuel T. Cayon