12/13/2018, 12.03
PHILIPPINES
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Mindanao, martial law prolonged by another year

It will remain in force until December 31, 2019. Banditry, piracy and armed rebellion (Islamist and communist) have tormented the poorest areas of the island for decades. According to the government, there is a risk that the terrorist groups behind the siege of Marawi will gather together. But critics denounce: already 155 cases of violations of human rights.

Manila (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Filipino Congress has approved a 12-month extension of martial law in the southern region of Mindanao: according to President Rodrigo Duterte, stringent security measures will prevent Islamic extremists from gathering their forces.

In yesterday's joint session, with 235 votes in favor and 28 against, the parliamentarians ruled that the provision will remain in force until December 31, 2019. Legislators have thus prolonged what is already the longest time lapse with martial law in the country , after the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.

The majority Islamic areas of the island, among the poorest in the nation, have been troubled for decades by banditry, piracy and armed rebellions of separatist and communist militias. The government has tried to manage them with agreements and decentralization.

However, last May, the most ferocious conflict since the Second World War exploded in Mindanao, when an alliance of extremists attempted to create an enclave of the Islamic State (IS) through the siege of Marawi. When government troops declared the victory over the jihadists, on October 23, the clashes had already caused the death of more than 1,000 militants, the destruction of a large part of the city and about 400 thousand displaced among the residents of the "Islamic city".

In a letter sent to Congress last week, Duterte said that the extremists, under the influence of IS, "continue to challenge the government by perpetrating hostile activities". According to security officials, under the martial law, 143 suspected terrorists were arrested. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said more than 2,400 are still at large. According to the government, lifting martial law would allow terrorist groups behind the siege of Marawi, such as Abu Sayyaf, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and Daulah Islamiyah, to regroup.

Lawmakers of a nationalist bloc claim that martial law has caused at least 155 cases of human rights violations in Mindanao. Even the Catholic Church has repeatedly expressed its opposition to the provision. Since the early hours of the Marawi crisis, the bishops have called the population to unity and solidarity, preparing initiatives for assistance to displaced persons and victims of the conflict.

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