Locals and rights activists are opposing a possible extension of martial law in Mindanao island. They say that emergency measures are no longer required after security forces freed the region from "IS"-linked insurgents.
On May 23, 2017, "Islamic State"-inspired militants stormed Marawi City in southern Philippines, where Racma Mauyag lived with her husband and six children.
As the Philippine military battled against the insurgents, Mauyag left the city with her children. While fleeing Marawi, she lost sight of her 18-year-old son, Tampipi, in the chaos. Later, Mauyag's neighbors showed her a Facebook post that showed that her son was caught in the crossfire and lost his life.
For more than a year, Mauyag has been living in a camp, longing for her son. "I want to go back to Marawi to look for my son's body and bury him," Mauyag told DW.
But the security situation in Marawi is still volatile. President Rodrigo Duterte, who declared martial law in the entire southern island of Mindanao, is planning to extend emergency measures for another year to crush the Islamist rebellion.
"Terrorism is still lurking in the area," military chief Carlito Galvez told media on December 3.
The government claims it has the locals' support to extend martial law, but activists say that martial law has only worsened the security situation in Mindanao.
Mauyag fears that if authorities extend martial law, she won't be able to return to Marawi anytime soon.
"Martial law has allowed the security forces to operate under a culture of impunity. Soldiers and police are violating citizen's rights," Teddy Casiño, a congressman, told DW.
Human rights activists and leaders of indigenous communities in Mindanao are being arrested — and even killed — on false charges, Casiño claimed.
Last week, more than 70 teachers and students were reportedly detained in Davao del Norte, Mindanao, for participating in a national solidarity mission with indigenous groups.
"These are not isolated cases; this is quite normal in Mindanao under Duterte's martial law," Casiño said, adding that there is no need to extend emergency measures in southern Philippines anymore.
"Martial law was imposed in response to the [militants'] siege, which is now over. Martial law is not needed to maintain peace and order," Casiño added.
President Duterte said he would wait for the recommendations from the police and military before asking the Congress to vote on martial law extension.
Impact on Mindanao's economy
Zia Alonto Adiong, a lawmaker in the regional Mindanao assembly, told DW he was unsure whether marital law should be prolonged.
"On one hand, I have seen how martial law facilitated coordination between the local government and the military in securing our communities. But I worry that its extension will be interpreted as an admission that Mindanao is in a constant state of lawlessness," Adiong said.
Adiong is concerned that a possible martial law extension would have a negative impact on Mindanao's economic development.
"You cannot separate peace from economic development. If the government extends martial law, the military should engage in a dialogue with the business community to discuss how the government can boost trade and commerce in the region," Adiong added.
President Duterte has created a special task force and allocated a budget for Marawi's reconstruction.