The Philippine National Police (PNP) said only selected areas in Mindanao still need to be placed under martial law as a measure to curb terrorism.
“There is still an ongoing assessment on the part of the PNP. Baka puwede maging selective [it could be selective]. In almost all possibilities, we are for the discontinuance except on other areas na merong assessment na malakas pa rin ang terrorism (where there is an assessment that terrorism is still prevalent),” PNP officer-in-charge, Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa told reporters in Camp Crame.
Gamboa said they are currently conducting an assessment in Mindanao to identify the areas where there is no more need for martial law.
While Gamboa did not elaborate on what these areas are, the usual areas with security concerns include some parts of central Mindanao and the provinces of Basilan and Sulu.
He said he had already instructed the Directorate for Intelligence to submit its assessment on the security situation in Mindanao by Friday.
Once the assessment is done, Gamboa said they could come up with the areas and the time frame as to how long would another martial law extension would be implemented.
“I don’t think so but we will give you concrete answers once we are finished,” Gamboa said.
Gamboa said the assessment of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) could be different from theirs.
Moreover, Gamboa said the decision on the matter is now up to National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., who will decide and recommend to President Rodrigo Duterte the possible lifting of martial law in Mindanao.
On Tuesday, PNP spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said the crime rate in Mindanao is on a decline and security forces are able to control the proliferation of loose firearms in the area.
Banac, however, said the PNP will submit its recommendation on the matter to the National Security Council next month.
He said a heightened alert status is still needed in some parts of the island.
He added that security officials have yet to discuss the matter of implementing martial law in selected areas in the region.
On Monday, Defense Secretary Lorenzana said he is not keen on another extension of martial law in Mindanao but said he would wait for the recommendation from the police and military regarding the matter.
The defense chief said the enactment of a stronger law amending Republic Act 9372 or the Human Security Act of 2007 (HSA) is a better option than martial law extension.
Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23, 2017 following attacks launched by the Islamic State-linked Maute Group in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.
It has since been in effect after Congress, in special joint sessions, voted to approve its extension thrice — from July 1 to December 31, 2017; from January 1 to December 31, 2018; and from January 1 to December 31, 2019. (PNA)