Senators briefed on Marawi situation

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(File photo) Part of the discussion is whether or not another period to extend martial law is warranted and why the need to extend it.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 19) — Top security officials met with senators Wednesday to brief them on the current situation in Marawi City and the whole of Mindanao.

The security briefing was closed-door and the senators' lips were sealed. But one thing was clear: they weren't all convinced of the need to extend martial law in Mindanao until the end of the year as requested by President Rodrigo Duterte.  

After over four hours of discussion, the country's top security officials failed to sway all 14 senators who attended their briefing.

 

Senator Richard Gordon, an ally of the President, maintains he will only agree to a 60-day extension.

"I'd rather give a 60-day period and then let them explain why it should be extended," he said.

Senators Miguel Zubiri and JV Ejercito were more suppportive.

Zubiri said, "Actually my suggestion in the dinner was six months, then sabi nila 60 days ok na. Tuloy tignan mo five months din pala so tama pala ako."

[Translation: Actually, my suggestion in the dinner was six months, and they said 60 days would be enough. Now it's five months, so I was right.]

"Sa tingin ko marami ang supportive, kasi nga mukhang justified naman yung mga reasons," said Ejercito.

[Translation: I think a lot are supportive because the reasons are justified.]

Senator Risa Hontiveros, however, remains unsure whether she can support an extension for whatever length of time.

Eight lawmakers - Senators Panfilo Lacsin, Tito Sotto, Chiz Escudero, Kiko Pangilinan, Nancy Binay, Loren Legarda, Manny Pacquiao, and Antonio Trillanes  - were not in the briefing.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who was one of three security officials who presented President Duterte's arguments, would not say who recommended the five month extension, or if this was the idea of the President himself.  Lorenzana is also martial law administrator.

He said, "Hindi ko sasagutin yan dahil nagrequest na si Presidente. Hindi naman importante kung ano yung nirekuminda ko. Basta si Presidente kase meron siyang decision. He got all his information from us, from the police, from the people in Mindanao so he made his decision. So it does not matter what our recommendation was."

[Translation: I will not answer that because of the President's request. What I recommended is not important. Because the President has made his decision. He got all his information from us, from the police, from the people in Mindanao so he made his decision. So it does not matter what our recommendation was.]

The other two officials – Armed Forces Chief and martial law implementor Eduardo Año and National Security adviser Hermogenes Esperon – would not provide more details. 

Esperon said, "From my perspective its not really a matter of whether we will extend martial law or not. What matters is what we want to do in Mindanao."

The lack of information contributes to the confusion.

On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Tito Sotto told CNN Philippines President Duterte wanted only a 60-day extension.

READ: Sotto: Duterte asked for 60-day martial law extension

The next day, Malacañang announced the President, in a letter to Congress, asked to prolong martial law until the end of the year.

 

The officials say they will attend the special joint session of Congress to answer other concerns about the situation in Mindanao and the need to maintain martial law there. 

READ: House, Senate eye Thursday meeting to agree on rules for joint session