Officials cite terrorist recruitment, 'new Maute leader' as reasons for Mindanao military rule

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 24) — Defense and military officials want martial law to remain in effect in Mindanao until the end of the year.

Defense Secretary and martial law administrator Delfin Lorenzana cited several reasons for the need for military rule, including the continued recruitment of remaining terrorists.

Joint Task Force Ranao Deputy Commander Col. Romeo Brawner Jr. earlier told CNN Philippines the sub-leader of the Maute group, Abu Dar, is offering a joining fee of P70,000 and a monthly fee of P10,000 - P15,000 to lure recruits. He supposedly targets orphans and family members of combatants who died in the Marawi siege.

Over 900 terrorists, 168 soldiers and policemen and 47 civilians wree killed in the five-month war from May to October last year.

The Armed Forces is validating reports Abu Dar is the new leader of the ISIS-linked Maute terror group. But he is "the only remaining significant figure" among those who planned the attack on Marawi City, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Carlito Galvez Jr. said. All the rest died in the heavy fighting.

Galvez, however assured that the support for the terrorist group "is waning," adding that a total of 42 former members of the Maute group have already surrendered to authorities.

Lorenzana said they will again assess the security situation in the region after two months, adding that the military won't recommend the lifting of martial law "until such time na gumanda ang situation (until the situation gets better)."

Galvez, meanwhile, is keen on recommending it until year-end, saying he has received feedback that the people of Mindanao "love martial law."

Martial law stays in Mindanao until December 31, 2018 after Congress granted President Rodrigo Duterte's second request for an extension amid efforts to rehabilitate the war-torn city.

Other threat groups such as Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the Abu Sayyaf group also plot attacks in different parts of Mindanao, Lorenzana said.

Palace open to probe

Calls to lift the military rule, however, continued as critics alleged human rights violations committed by government troops.

Malacañang on Thursday said these would all remain to be allegations until a complaint is filed and evidence is presented.

"Nasan ang mga reklamo? Wag naman po nating pagbintangan ang ating kasundaluhan (Where are the complaints? Let us not accuse our soldiers)," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.

He added the Palace is open to a possible Senate investigation after opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes called for a probe into the events that led to the Marawi crisis and the alleged lack of a clear plan to rehabilitate the war-torn city.

The military has vowed to investigate abuses allegedly committed by government troops.

CNN Philippines' David Santos contributed to this report.