Duterte: Martial law stays amid possible spillover of terror threat

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FILE PHOTO. President Rodrigo Duterte visits Marawi City for the second time on August 4.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 2) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday said he has considered lifting martial law in Mindanao but a possible spillover of the terror crisis held him back.

"I was thinking that we could, you know, lift it earlier. But the way it looks, parang may spillover na sa ARMM eh. Sa Buldon (It seems there's a spillover in Buldon in ARMM)," Duterte told members of the Eastern Mindanao Command during their founding anniversary celebration in Davao City.

Buldon is a town in Maguindanao over 130 kilometers south of Marawi City, the provincial capital of Lanao del Sur and battleground of government troops and terrorists for more than three months. Both are in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Duterte said while he is "leaving it to the military and the police to solve the problem," he might still end military rule depending on the situation on the ground.

"Let us see. If it is to the interest of the country that I will lift it, I will lift it. But if not, then we'll just have to continue with the martial law," he said.

The military earlier said they have prevented any possible spillover of the Marawi crisis.

The battle for retaking Marawi is nearing its end, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has announced.

BGen. Restituto Padilla, AFP spokesperson, however said fighting is expected to intensify during the "final push."

RELATED: 3 soldiers killed, 52 troops wounded in Marawi on eve of Eid'l Adha

He said some 40 Maute fighters are holed up in a half-a-square kilometer area in the ruined city, holding 20 to 30 hostages.

Duterte on Friday encouraged troops fighting in Marawi, as the government has lost 136 soldiers since the fighting began. Authorities said 620 terrorists and 45 civilians have been killed.

"I enjoin our troops to continue to be faithful to their sworn oath to protect and defend our sovereignty and our people, especially as martial law remains in effect in Mindanao amid the persisting threats of terrorism and insurgency," Duterte said.

Duterte declared martial law throughout Mindanao on May 23 following clashes between the Maute terror group and government forces.

Martial law was supposed to lapse last July 22 in line with the 60-day limit under the Constitution, but Congress, granted Duterte's request for an extension until the end of this year "to quell the rebellion."

READ: Congress grants Duterte's request to extend martial law in Mindanao until end of year