The Philippine Congress on Saturday voted to extend President Rodrigo Duterte’s martial law for five months in the southern island of Mindanao, giving security officials more time to end what they said was a rebellion by local militants backed by the Islamic State (IS).
Duterte previously said the extension was necessary to crush IS-backed militants who have been occupying parts of the southern city of Marawi since May.
Two hundred and forty-five members of the 294-seat House of Representatives and 16 of the 24-member Senate approved Dutere’s request, which extends military rule in the entire southern part of the country until the end of December.
The overwhelming favorable vote has been expected, with Duterte controlling a majority in both chambers.
“The extension of martial law is essential to the overall peace and stability,” Duterte’s spokesman, Ernesto Abella, said in a statement shortly after the vote. “The rebellion in Marawi continues to persist and we want to stop the spread of evil ideology of terrorism and free the people of Mindanao from the tyranny of lawlessness and violent extremism.”
Martial law gives the military extraordinary police powers, allowing them to detain people without charge for long periods.
Military spokesman Col. Edgar Arevalo urged the public to rally behind government forces fighting in Marawi.
“The task to neutralize the terrorist-extremists and degrade their capability, to rescue civilians trapped or held hostage, and to set the conditions for reconstruction and rehabilitation of the city is daunting,” he said.
The fighting began on May 23, after the military and police launched an operation to capture Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon – the acknowledged leader of the IS here – who was spotted in Marawi. But they were pushed back by a huge enemy force, including fighters from the local Maute group backed by Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern fighters.
The gunmen took over the city, burned buildings, held dozens of hostages and allegedly beheaded residents who were identified as Christians, forcing its estimated 200,000 residents to flee.
Full story: BenarNews
Richel V. Umel
Iligan, Philippines. Felipe Villamor in Manila contributed to this report.
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