Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte has asked Congress to extend martial law across the southern region of Mindanao by one year for “total eradication” of ISIL and communist fighters, according to the local media.
In a letter to legislators sent to media by his office on Monday, Duterte said that the move was necessary to contain an ongoing rebellion by supporters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL, also known as ISIS) and “the communist terrorists (CTs) and their coddlers, supporters, and financiers”.
“I ask the Congress of the Philippines to further extend the proclamation of Martial Law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao for a period of one year from 01 January 2018,” stated the letter, shared by Rappler, a local news publication.
Al Jazeera’s Jamila Alindogan, reporting from the capital Manila, said legislators would meet today to discuss Duterte’s proposal.
“It will be off-limits to media. A decision is expected by Friday,” she said.
Alindogan also said that many critics had voiced their opposition to martial law, citing abuses by the military.
“Some fear that Duterte may be ‘rehearsing’ a nationwide enforcement of strongman rule,” she said.
Duterte initially imposed military rule across Mindanao in May. It was limited by the constitution to 60 days, but in July, a five-month extension was issued until December 31.
Hundreds of gunmen had rampaged through Marawi in what authorities said was part of a campaign to establish a Southeast Asian caliphate for ISIL.
A US and Chinese-backed military campaign took five months to defeat the group, with the conflict claiming more than 1,100 lives and leaving large parts of Marawi in ruins.
Although Duterte declared in October that Marawi had been “liberated” and military chiefs said most leaders of the group had been killed, authorities have continued to warn that others who escaped are regrouping and recruiting in Mindanao.