MANILA — With Islamic militants holding a stubborn grip on the southern Philippine city of Marawi, President Rodrigo Duterte has asked Congress to extend martial law on the island of Mindanao through the end of the year to quell the rebellion, his government said on Tuesday.
Mr. Duterte’s request is essentially an admission that the fighting to dislodge the Islamic State-linked fighters from Marawi would not end in a matter of days, despite his vow last week saying that it would.
Ernesto Abella, the president’s spokesman, said that Mr. Duterte had asked Congress, which is dominated by his allies, to “deliberate and consider the possible extension” of the decree authorizing martial law. In a letter to leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives, Mr. Duterte said he had the backing of his defense secretary and martial law administrator, Delfin Lorenzana, along with the heads of the armed forces and the national police, saying “public safety requires it.”
Marawi was taken over May 23 by insurgents from the Abu Sayyaf and Maute militant groups who were backed by foreign fighters. The seizure, which took place while Mr. Duterte and his top security officials were visiting Russia, prompted the president to cut short the trip and place the island of Mindanao — the second largest in the Philippines — under military rule.
He ordered Philippine troops and the air force to Marawi to try to dislodge the militants. The battle forced an estimated 200,000 residents to flee Marawi, the only predominantly Muslim city in the Philippines, a mostly Roman Catholic country.
Military officers leading the assault on the ground have said that the militants were entrenched in central Marawi, where they are believed to be holding out with enough firepower to withstand the military’s air bombardments and its ground assaults. The insurgents are also believed to be holding dozens of civilians captive, including a Catholic priest who had appealed to the government to stop its air assaults.
The military said on Monday that 56 days of fighting had killed at least 97 government troops and 45 civilians. At least 405 extremists had also died, including several foreign fighters, the government said, leaving behind about 60 rebels.
Isnilon Hapilon, the head of Abu Sayyaf and the acknowledged leader of the Islamic State in the Philippines, is believed to be in Marawi leading his men in the fighting, backed by a contingent from the Maute group along with allied foreign fighters.
Senator Antonio Trillanes, a Duterte critic, said the move to extend martial law was “totally not justified.”
The military said that “the Mautes are down to 60,” Mr. Trillanes said. “So in other words, the people of Mindanao would be inconvenienced by martial law just to neutralize the 60 Mautes who are cornered in Marawi? That’s a whimsical misuse of power.”
He said the call to extend martial law showed Mr. Duterte’s “authoritarian tendencies.”
Loretta Ann Rosales, a former human rights commissioner who was tortured during the period of martial law under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, noted that the announcement came after days of repeated assurances that the end of fighting was near, with the military’s mopping-up operations nearly complete.
She said the call to extend martial law reflected “a narrow, militarist mind-set that sees the restoration of peace and stability through simplistic aerial and sniper attacks.”
She said the only ones who would benefit from an extension of martial law were those who believed in “self-perpetuation” — an apparent dig at Mr. Duterte, an admitted admirer of Marcos who last year allowed the dictator’s family to transfer his remains to the national Heroes’ Cemetery in Manila with full military honors.
Mr. Abella, the president’s spokesman, tried to deflect such criticisms on Tuesday, saying that the primary objective of extending martial law was to allow a military solution to proceed “unhampered by deadlines, and to focus more on the liberation of Marawi and its rehabilitation and rebuilding.”