QUEZON CITY (PhilAmPress) – The Philippine Congress has overwhelmingly voted to extend martial law in Mindanao for the entire 2018.
The Senate and House of Representatives, convening in a joint session at the Batasang Pambansa, granted President Rodrigo Duterte’s request for the extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of writ of habeas corpus for a period of one year from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2018.
A total of 240 members of Congress voted to approve the resolution of both houses calling for martial law extension in Mindanao, while only 27 voted against it. There was no abstention.
A total of 14 senators voted in favor of the motion and four were against it, while 226 House members approved the motion and 23 rejected it.
Under the Constitution, the Congress, voting jointly, has the sole power to extend martial law. A majority vote of the two chambers — or at least 158 members — is needed to pass the motion.
President Duterte thanked Congress for heeding his request to extend martial law for another year in Mindanao.
In his speech at the ceremonial demilitarization of seized weapons during the Marawi conflict at the Philippine Army headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, the President sent his gratitude to Congress “for understanding the plight of the Filipino.”
The President admitted that without martial law, it would be impossible for the government to curb rebellion and terrorism in Mindanao. “Alam mo mahirapan talaga ako ‘pag walang martial law sa Mindanao. I will make it public and maybe telegraph also to the other side,” Duterte said.
“You know because there are processes to follow, procedures to honor. Kaya itong martial law, without the martial powers, the ancillary powers attached to the implementors, the implementing agency, mahihirapan tayo,” he said.
Opposition lawmakers belonging to the “Magnificent 7” bloc expressed their intent to contest the full-year extension of martial law in Mindanao before the Supreme Court.
“We are definitely filing a petition before the Supreme Court,” Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said.
“I hope this time the Supreme Court will see that there is no factual and constitutional basis for the extension of the period of martial law,” he added.
The one-year extension of martial law in Mindanao from January 1 to December 31, 2018 is a blessing in disguise because security forces will now be more conscious of committing human rights abuses, said Senator Panfilo Lacson.
Lacson, former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, was one of the 14 senators who voted for the extension.
“Di ba parang blessing in disguise pa, na na-extend ang martial law kasi masyadong conscious ang security forces natin na kung sakaling mag-commit ng abuses ang mga tauhan nila, alam nilang maraming nagbabantay kasi may martial law (Isn’t it like a blessing in disguise that martial law was extended because our security forces will now be conscious of committing abuses because they know that there will be a lot of people watching them),” Lacson told reporters in an interview after the session.
Lacson said that without martial law, these abuses would be given less attention
An affirmation of trust and confidence is how Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana described Congress’ decision to extend martial law in Mindanao for one year.
“The DND is grateful for this affirmation of trust and confidence from our legislators. The Filipino people can rest assured that we will not squander this opportunity to finally end the continuing rebellion and terrorism in Mindanao by destroying the Daesh (Arabic name for ISIS) structure in the area, thwart like-minded groups from conducting further acts of terrorism and prevent the spillover of violence and radicalism in other parts of the country,” he added.
And with the extension, the DND chief expressed confidence that the government can move forward with unhampered reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi City.
“The challenges we are facing in Mindanao are also challenges to each and every Filipino. Together, as a nation, we will prevail and prove to the world our collective resilience against odds,” Lorenzana said.
Meanwhile, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs Col. Edgard Arevalo said the Congress’ decision proves the validity of the military’s grounds for seeking martial law extension.
“We see the grant of the extension of ML (Martial Law) as an acknowledgement of the grounds we have cited that need immediate and decisive actions,” he added.
“Specifically, we need to quell the ongoing rebellion in Mindanao and prevent its spread to other parts of the country. The military will faithfully perform its mandate to protect the people and secure the state,” he added.
To recall, President Duterte placed the entire Mindanao under martial law last May 23 after terrorists inspired by the Islamic State (IS) laid siege to Marawi City.
The first extension of martial law will be until Dec. 31 this year at the President’s request.
In his letter dated Dec. 8, Duterte asked Congress to further extend the declaration of martial law in the whole of Mindanao for 2018 to totally eradicate terror threats posed by remnants of IS-linked terrorists and by communist rebels in the region.
He said extending martial law for another year would help state security forces crush the rebellion in Mindanao and ensure public safety.
In his letter dated December 8, PresidentDuterte asked Congress to further extend the declaration of martial law in the whole of Mindanao for the entirety of 2018 to totally eradicate terror threats posed by remnants of Islamic State (IS)-linked terrorists and by communist rebels in the region.
Lagman said the Constitution requires an actual state of rebellion, not just mere threats, for such proclamation of martial rule.
“They only constitute threats to violence and terrorism, these are not grounds for extending the martial law,” he said.
Lagman added that the period of one year is “inordinately long”, saying that any extension of the martial law declaration should not exceed 60 days as provided for in the Constitution.
“The duration of the martial law would be blatantly against the concept of the Constitution. Because the general rule is that there should be no declaration of martial law almost in perpetua,” he said.
He said an extension cannot be extended anymore as it will result in a series of extensions.
Lagman said they are still awaiting the issuance of Resolution of Both Houses 13, containing the martial law extension, as a principal document before raising the matter to the high court.
Other members of the Magnificent 7 bloc include Reps. Tom Villarin, Gary Alejano, Edgar Erice, Teddy Baguilat, Raul Daza, and Emmanuel Billones.
President Duterte said the demilitarized firearms shall symbolize the government’s resolve to defend its people against individuals who sow fear through violence and destruction.
The demilitarized firearms were recovered by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) at the height of the five-month-long firefight against ISIS-inspired Maute group.
“It is through this that we will honor our heroes and those who lost their lives defending our way of life,” he added.
According to the AFP, the firearms will be burned and its metal residues and scrap will be kept for final disposal following the AFP’s policies and directives.
During the event, the Chief Executive also conferred Order of Lapu Lapu medals to soldiers who were wounded in various actions all over the country.
Of this number, 75 were awarded with the Kampilan Medal and 30 others with the Kamagi Medal. Duterte then said that he already ordered the National Housing Authority (NHA) to provide and build houses for soldiers who are still undergoing therapy.
The Chief Executive also assured good future for the soldiers’ children, saying that if any of them want to study in the country’s top schools, then he will finance it.
“As a matter of fact, now, kung sinong gustong mag-aral ng UP, La Salle, Ateneo, San Beda, tell me. Ako na ang magbayad sa tuition ninyo,” Duterte promised.
By virtue of Executive Order No. 17, the Order of Lapu Lapu is given to government officials and personnel and private individuals who have shown invaluable service to the President’s campaign or advocacy.
“To those who were wounded in action and are here with us today, we confer upon you the Order of Lapu-Lapu as a recognition of your extraordinary and exceptional service to the nation,” Duterte said.
“May our soldiers continue to inspire our people, especially those from Marawi, to rise above all challenges as we rebuild from the ruins of war and look forward to a brighter future,” he added. (PhilAmPress/Alfred G Gabot)
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