PHILIPPINE National Police chief, Director General Ronald ‘Bato’ M. de la Rosa yesterday said that martial law in Mindanao may only be lifted once the threat posed by the ISIS-inspired Maute and Abu Sayyaf Group has been neutralized and Marawi City have been cleared of the Islamic terrorists.
As fighting in Marawi City entered its 2nd week, the country’s top cop said that he will only recommend to President Duterte to lift martial rule in Mindanao once the critical situation in the region is effectively addressed by security forces. The President said that he will rely on the recommendation of the PNP and the Armed Forces headed by General Eduardo Año in deciding to lift or continue imposing martial law in the southern region.
Last Saturday, the PNP chief ordered the indefinite suspension of all gun permits issued to civilians in Mindanao as part of the security measures in the enforcement of martial law in the region.
Gen. de la Rosa minced no words in saying he is open to recommending the lifting of martial law in Mindanao on certain conditions only. “If it would become unnecessary again,’yung pag wala nang problema, hindi na kailangan siguro. Depende yan sa magiging situation on the ground,” he said.
He also said that the PNP is fully behind President Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao. ““Ang pinakarason niyan is to restore law and order sa Marawi o buong Mindanao kasi magkakalapit lang iyan, magkakadikit lang iyan. Apektado ang buong Mindanao,” he said while adding that Duterte’s martial rule in Mindanao is very much different from the one implemented by the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos or even former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when she imposed a 7-day martial law in Maguindanao in the aftermath of the infamous Mamasapano Massacre.
As of yesterday, police are under orders to accost all persons bearing firearms in Mindanao even though they are covered with PTCFORs. The order means that even residents of Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon and Visayas who have been issued PTCFORs cannot bring their licensed weapons covered with the special permit to Mindanao or they will be arrested by the police.
Under Section 31 of Republic Act 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulations Act of 2013, carrying of a licensed firearm without any PTCFOR is an offense punishable by prision correccional and a fine of P10,000.
A PTCFOR is being issued by the Chief,PNP or his/her duly authorized representative to any qualified person whose life is under actual threat or his/her life is in imminent danger due to the nature of his/her profession, occupation or business.
On orders of Gen. de la Rosa, police troops in Mindanao went on full alert to address threats posed by the Maute Group, the Abu Sayyaf, the New People’s Army and other lawless armed groups in the region.
The PNP and the Armed Forces are enforcing a 60-day martial law in the region imposed by President Duterte in the wake of the attacks launched by the Maute Group on Tuesday last week which so far have left over 40 dead, at least a dozen of them security troops.
Carlos said that the PNP leadership raised the alert level “to ensure maximum availability of personnel and resources for law enforcement and public safety operations.”
Just like in different countries abroad, the PNP is not also taking any chances following the declaration of martial law in Mindanao and have also stepped-up security in the country’s airports, the MRT and LRT stations, hotels, piers, public utility terminals and other places of huge public convergence outside the region.
“We are calling on the citizenry to maintain their vigilance and immediately report to us suspicious movements and activities of people as well as presence of unattended bags and packages in crowded areas,” Carlos said.
In Metro Manila, National Capital Region Police Office chief, Director Oscar D. Albayalde said he has ordered round-the-clock checkpoint operations to arrest the presence of unauthorized weapons in the streets as well as criminals and would-be terrorists.
All concerned PNP units in Mindanao have been “alerted against possible rebel-initiated hostilities” while the Police Regional Offices 1,2,34-A,4-B,5,6,7, 8 ,12, Cordillera Administrative Region and the NCRPO also went on full alert status.
“All PNP unit commanders were reminded to maintain security in vital installations, economic key points as well as places of convergence and ensure high state of operational readiness to deter criminal activities and thwart any hostile actions that may be launched by threat groups,” Carlos said.