ARMED Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of staff General Noel Clement is not supporting the lifting of martial law in the whole of Mindanao.
Clement said they are still conducting security assessment in the island before making the final recommendation.
In a phone interview, Clement said selected areas in the island will perhaps be included in a possible fourth extension.
“Maybe Sulu (will be included in selected areas for the possible martial law extension),”Clement said.
He said some areas are already stable. For certain, the military general said Davao City will no longer be included in the extension.
On Monday, Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana said he is no longer inclined to recommend another extension of martial law in Mindanao, saying it has been going on for far “too long.”
However, Lorenzana said he will still wait for the recommendation of the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP).
Interior Sec. Eduardo Año, in a text message, also bats for martial law in selected areas.
Año cites the “areas of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) where there are threats from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).”
Lt. Gen. Felimon Santos, Jr., the commander of the AFP’s Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom), has endorsed its lifting in Davao City.
Santos said the parameters of exclusion include the clearing of all barangays in the city, particularly those in the remote Paquibato District, once infested by communist rebels.
Mayor Sara Duterte, the President’s daughter, has been requesting for the city’s exclusion.
President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law on May 23, 2017 when the Dawla’h Islamiyah held Marawi hostage.
The clashes began when government troopers conducted an offensive to capture Isnilon Hapilon, the leader of the ISIL-affiliated Abu Sayyaf group, in Marawi.
Hapilon’s forces opened fire on the combined Army and police teams and called for reinforcements from the Maute group, an armed group that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
The five-month siege left over a thousand dead, including some 80 civilians.
After the siege ended in October 2017, Duterte extended martial law until the end of 2017. It was extended twice until the end of 2019.