By NITZ ARANCON, Correspondent .
FOUR regional peace and order councils have thrown their support behind calls to extend the martial law in Mindanao.
Mayor Oscar Moreno over the weekend said the four peace and order councils passed a resolution that expressed support for the idea to extend the Mindanao martial law to 2019.
The martial law, declared in 2017 as an offshoot of the so-called “Marawi Siege” and extended this year, is supposed to be in effect only until Dec. 31.
According to Moreno, the resolution of the four Mindanao RPOCs was submitted to the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) during the National Peace and Order Council meeting in Davao City last week.
The document was received by Interior Secretary Eduardo Año.
Moreno, chairman of the peace and order council of northern Mindanao, said he personally supports calls for martial law to be in effect until 2019, saying President Duterte’s 2017 declaration was a decisive move meant to bring lasting peace and harmony in Mindanao.
He reiterated what he said in 2017: “I do fervently hope that the operationalization of martial rule will not subvert the sovereign people’s collective will, and neither will it disregard constitutional guarantees, except in cases that are more than reasonably necessary to achieve its sole purpose.”
By now, said Moreno, it has become clear that Duterte’s intention in declaring martial law is not to stay in power.
He said the Mindanao martial law is needed especially as the proposed Bangsamoro areas prepare for a plebiscite, and because of next year’s mid-term elections.
But a business leader in Davao feared that the prolonged implementation of martial law would give prospective foreign investors the wrong impression about the security situation as it creates an “atmosphere of tension and insecurity.”
“When people analyze the measures that we are adopting to address the security situation, they’ll consider, well, martial law is the one used so the security situation must be very, very difficult. That is why our security forces are requesting a very extreme counter measure. But the question is why extreme? It gives the atmosphere of tension, it gives the atmosphere of insecurity,” said lawyer Samuel Matunog, president of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Davao Council.
Matunog earlier asked Duterte to lift martial law in Mindanao, pointing out that it was affecting Davao’s bid to become the next premiere destination for new investors in the business process outsourcing (BPO).
National Security Adviser Heremogenes Esperon Jr. said people should focus on the benefits that the martial law brings such as lowering the crime rates in Mindanao. He said people in Mindanao are becoming more safe.
On the appeal of the ICT-Davao Council, Esperon said: “I recognize them but there are bigger players who are coming in.”
He said majority of the people from Mindanao favor the extension of martial law.
Matunog said while it could be true that there are investors entering Mindanao, some industries like the ICT are affected in terms of new BPO players.
“We do not believe that our national security are in dire straits without martial law,” he said.
Matunog added they believe the police and the military are “capable of a more nuanced and calibrated approach, imposing martial law or extending it only when inevitable, making certain that we project a posture of strength rather than weakness.”
The BPO industry in Davao alone employs about 50,000 workers.
The absence of big and new BPO locators benefits existing players in the city due to lack of competition over qualified workers, Matunog said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said threats are not completely eliminated even with martial law in Mindanao implemented immediately after the armed encounters erupted between government forces and Islamic State-inspired Maute Group in Marawi City on May 23, 2017.
“By first week of December, we are going to send our recommendations to the President,” he said.
Lorenzana said they would also want the extension to ensure a peaceful plebiscite for the ratification of the Organic Law for Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao next month and the May 2019 elections. (with Antonio Colina IV of Mindanews)