MANILA, Philippines — Senators were briefed behind closed doors by security officials Wednesday morning ahead of the July 22 special session of Congress to decide on President Rodrigo Duterte’s request to extend martial law in Mindanao until December 31.
Duterte declared martial law on May 23, soon after government forces engaged extremist gunmen in clashes in Marawi City that are still continuing.
Among the lawmakers who attended the briefing by officials led by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Armed Forces chief of staff General Eduardo Año, the administrator and implementer of martial law, were Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Senators Risa Hontiveros, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Richard Gordon, Joel Villanueva, Juan Miguel Zubiri and Juan Edgardo Angara.
Even before the briefing started, a number of senators made known their support for extending martial law for the next five months after its original 60-day period lapses on Saturday.
Zubiri, who is from Mindanao, said the additional five months would give security forces sufficient time to address all armed threats in the south, a task that could not be completed if the extension were only for 60 days.
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He said he also agrees that the whole of Mindanao continue to be covered.
Gordon, for his part, said he was more inclined toward six months but was willing to listen to why the security officials believe more time is needed. He also said he wanted to know the security cluster’s plans when hostilities in Marawi end and what they intend to do to prevent a recurrence of the crisis.
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National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, who also participated in the briefing, said he was okay with 60 days but added that an extension until yearend would boost efforts to rehabilitate Marawi.