PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte’s move to follow the army’s advice to extend martial law in Mindanao is “imbecilic”, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said as the siege in Marawi to flush out militants of the Islamic State-inspired Maute Group approaches its 50th day.
In denouncing the planned extension, the CPP pointed out that Duterte claims he listens solely to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for advice on the on-going conflict, but military officials claimed they never advised the president to declare martial law.
“Whichever way, it is imbecilic to seek advise from the AFP whose officers now admit it did not even know the strength of the so-called Maute Group when the AFP laid siege on Marawi,” the CPP said in a statement published on its Facebook account on Monday.
Despite the army’s apparent miscalculation in the numbers of militants in the city prior to the siege, the CPP said: “Now Duterte listens to it to tell him when it will be over.”
The CPP said the AFP’s continued aerial bombardment of Marawi has been “proven a failure” in its declared objective of exterminating the Maute Group.
“By going on a rampage and destroying and looting people’s homes in Marawi, Duterte and the AFP have succeeded only in driving away 400,000 people and creating a massive humanitarian crisis,” the CPP said, referring to the violence which erupted on May 23.
“The all-out disregard of Duterte-AFP for the lives and property has succeeded further in igniting widespread and determined armed resistance by various Moro groups,” said the statement.
The CPP has Duterte’s administration of setting a stage for nationwide martial law with his decision last Friday to stall peace talks National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the umbrella body that represents communists in the talks.
“It has become all too apparent that the Duterte regime is not at all interested in the substantive agenda of peace negotiations with the NDFP and only wants to use the talks to compel the revolutionary forces to sign a premature bilateral ceasefire to silence the weapons of the NPA (New People’s Army) and prevent the people from resisting the GRP’s (government negotiator’s) all-out war.”
“His refusal to continue talks with the NDFP comes amid accelerated efforts of his officials and loyalists to set the stage for nationwide martial law will further aggravate the campaign of murder and brutalities under his strongman rule,” concluded the statement.
Since 1971, Communist organisations such as the CPP, NPA, and the NDFP have been in armed conflict the government troops in an insurgency that has claimed more than 43,000 people.
Duterte has not indicated any plan to lift martial law in Marawi until its full 60-day term, not even before his second State of the National Address (Sona) scheduled for July 24, unless security officers tell him Mindanao is finally safe.
“I consulted the [military and the police] and [they] said it was critical,” the president was quoted saying last Friday in Davao City.
“It will be the armed forces and police who will say if it’s no longer critical.”
Last Tuesday, the Supreme Court affirmed the legality of Duterte’s martial law declaration in Mindanao, officially setting aside the opposition’s bid to overturn it.
In recent remarks, Brig Gen Restituto Padilla, a spokesman for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said the military’s assessment of the security situation in Mindanao was still ongoing.
He said a recommendation will be made to Duterte once the military is satisfied it has flushed out all terrorist elements from the region.
The Philippines Constitution stipulates martial law can be imposed for 60 days, unless extended by the Congress.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said on Sunday that he would push Congress to extend martial law in Mindanao until 2022, to give President Rodrigo Duterte time to put an end to all terrorist activities in the restive region.
“If I can convince my colleagues, I will push for an extension until 2022, because two months is too short. Five months or one year or two years is too short,” he told a daily.
More than 400 have been killed in the fighting so far, while more than 300,000 have been displaced.