ZAMBOANGA CITY, May 17, 2017 — A top military official here said there is no need to declare martial law in Sulu as suggested by a civil society group in the province.
“At the rate we are going (in our campaign against the Abu Sayyaf Group) and the support of the local government officials and the community leaders, we believe that declaring martial law in parts of Sulu is no longer necessary,” Westmincom commander Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez Jr. said.
Galvez issued the statement in reaction to the call of the Save Sulu Movement to place at least six of the 19 municipalities in the province under military control due to the alleged collusion between its political leaders and the ASG.
The towns they seek to place under military control are Patikul, Indanan, Parang, Maimbung, Talipao, and Kalingalan Caluang.
“We have repeatedly informed the authorities the reason why the ASG is still active and even growing is because it is enjoying the protection of local officials who are protecting the Abu Sayyaf and receiving the lion’s share in the ransom money,” the Save Sulu Movement said in a statement.
The group is also calling for a Senate investigation “in aid of legislation on the palpable connivance between the local officials and the ASG.”
However, Galvez said he will not recommend to President Rodrigo Duterte the imposition of martial law in Sulu.
“What Sulu needs is socio-economic development to make the people productive. There should be an alternate solution by using non-lethal activities,” he said.
Upon his arrival from Beijing, China, early Tuesday, President Duterte said he needs time to study the recommendation of the Save Sulu Movement.
“I need time to ponder on it deeply. It not is only a political decision, it’s an emotional decision. You do not tinker with the extraordinary powers of the state,” Duterte said in a press briefing, which was broadcast live over the television.
The President earlier ordered the military to crush the ASG within six months. The order will lapse on June 30.
On Tuesday, Galvez reported that Westmincom troops have killed at least 79 ASG members for the past four months in the provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
He said that 13 ASG members were apprehended while 48 have surrendered. (TPGJR/Darwin Wally T. Wee/PNA)