Defense chief says Mindanao martial law not targeting NPAs

MANILA — The declaration of martial law in Mindanao does not target the New People’s Army (NPA) operating in the region, said National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Saturday.

Secretary Lorenzana, in a statement, said martial law was declared in order to address radical Islamic terrorism and narco-terrorism in Mindanao brought about by the heavy fighting in Marawi City, Lanao Del Sur where AFP units were conducting operations aimed at dislodging Maute Group terrorists in the locality.

“We would like to make it clear that in the implementation of martial law in Mindanao, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will not specifically target the New People’s Army as alleged by NDFP (National Democratic Front Philippines) Chief Consultant Jose Maria Sison,” he stressed in the statement.

However, the defense chief warned that NPA members who would engage in criminal and illegal acts such as kidnapping, extortion, murder and the destruction of property will be dealt with or without martial law.

“Gusto ko lang liwanagin ang mensahe ko sa CPP-NPA. Huwag na kayong makigulo pa sa nangyayari ngayon sa Mindanao. Do not force the government’s hand. Immediately stop all illegal activities and abide by the true spirit of the peace process. This is the only way we can move forward,” he added.

“We will fully comply with the directives of the President that martial law was declared to address radical Islamic terrorism and narco-terrorism in Mindanao. We are conducting our operations in accordance with the rule of law and respect for human life. Law-abiding citizens in Mindanao need not fear the increased military presence and activities in their localities. Government security forces are there to protect the populace, maintain peace and order and go after criminal elements,” Lorenzana stressed.

Fighting in Marawi started May 23 when military tried to arrest Abu Sayyay leader Isnilon Hapilon, a known ally of the group and ISIS representative in the Philippines.

As of this posting, fatalities included 31 Maute Group terrorists and 11 soldiers.

The incident forced President Rodrigo Duterte to cut short in his official visit to Russia and declared Martial Law. PRIAM NEPOMUCENO/