PHL Congress Extends Martial Law in Mindanao Up to December; No Expansion to Visayas, Luzon

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MARAWI IN SHUMBLES. Fighting continues in Marawi where over 600 have been killed and President Duterte got the backing of Congress which unanimously extended martial law in Mindanao based on the situation in the city and nearby areas.

By ALFRED GABOT

QUEZON CITY (PhilAmPress) – In an unprecedented move, the Senate and the House of Representatives, meeting in a joint session, voted unanimously last Saturday to extend martial law and the suspension of the write of habeas corpus in the entire island of Mindanao and its archipelagic provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi to December 31, 2017.

The vote, 261 in favour and18 against, after eight hours of work, punctuated by some spirited objections from members of the minority of both chambers of Congress.

The vote is seen as a strong approval of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte who sought the extension of the 60-day martial law which he imposed through Presidential Proclamation 216 while he was visiting Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Moscow. The vote also came a few days before its expiration and Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address (SONA) before Congress.

Martial law was declared in effect in Mindanao after Maute Group terrorists conducted a series of attacks in Marawi City following the botched attempt to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader and ISIS “emir” in Southeast Asia, Isnilon Hapilon, last May 23.

After his SONA, Duterte asserted that he would not declare martial law in the whole country, as he lashed out at critics for comparing him to the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

In a press conference after his SONA, the President said that there is no reason for declaring martial law in the entire Philippines since it could only be done “if there is a revolution everywhere and anywhere.

“No nationwide martial law. Why? Because I will look stupid before the eyes of the public if I do that. And I don’t want to be called stupid,” Duterte said.

The President pointed out that even with martial law in Mindanao, civil and political liberties were not impaired except in places where curfew is being enforced.

“You can do everything in Davao or elsewhere, except in the places where there is a curfew. Nobody can force you to do a thing. We are allowed to live there in peace. Nobody but nobody has been forced to do anything against his will,” he said.

“The only thing we could say as an impairment of those civil and political rights is that you have to go home at 12 (midnight) because at 12, iba ang bakbakan. And they might not see you clearly if you are a civilian or an enemy. It is really for your own good,” the President said.

The deliberation also had Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Ano and others as resource persons. Prior to the session, the officials briefed Congress leaders on terrorism and martial law.The special joint session presided by Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez started at around 9:10 a.m. and ended at around 5:20 p.m.

Lawmakers arrived at a decision to approve the motion to extend the period of martial law at around 4:00 p.m. However, both chambers of the Congress adjourned the session at 5:20 p.m. to allow some to explain their vote.

On the part of the Senate, 16 lawmakers voted in favor of the motion, while four were against it. In the lower Chamber, 245 House members approved the motion, while 14 rejected it.

In the Senate, Senator Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan, a former decorated soldier, moved to extend the period of martial law to five months.

The senators who voted against Honasan’s motion were Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, Senators Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Risa Hontiveros and Francis Pangilinan.

Senators Nancy Binay, Leila de Lima and Antonio Trillanes IV were absent.

Before voting took place, Drilon proposed to make amendments to Honasan’s motion by limiting the extension of the period of martial law to 60 days instead of five months. However, Honasan rejected his proposal.

The Senate, meanwhile, voted to reject Drilon’s amendment. It was not clear how many voted against Drilon’s amendment.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III then moved for nominal voting among senators on the proposed extension of the period of martial law in Mindanao.

“Martial law in Mindanao involves both risk and opportunity but we can manage both,” Honasan said.

Honasan, an ex-military man, acknowledged that although there was potential for martial law to be abused, he believed that there were mechanisms for prevention within the Congress’ control.

“Terrorism will not begin and end in Marawi. Armed conflict for legitimate reasons did not start and will not end in Mindanao,” he added

Executive Secretary Medialdea explained before the Congress’ special joint session the basis of President  Duterte’s request for a five-month extension of the period of martial law in Mindanao, laying out the reasons why a longer period is “more practical”.

“I think it would be better if we ask for a longer period than for a shorter period, which we cannot deliver a promise, then ask again for an extension, which can no longer be done. I think it would be more practical to ask for a period until Dec. 31,” he said.

Medialdea was responding to the interpellation of Senator Drilon who wanted an explanation as to why there is a need for a five-month extension when reports show that more than half the number of rebels have already been neutralized.

He said that reports and recommendations of martial law administrator and implementor, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief-of-Staff Eduardo Año, have concluded that “the existing rebellion in Mindanao has not been completely quelled and public safety requires Proclamation 216 declaring a state of martial law and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus be extended”.

The executive secretary cited four reasons why a five-month extension of the period of martial law is necessary.

First, he said, is that rebel groups, such as the Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf, “continue to offer armed resistance in a new type of urban warfare, using high-powered weapons”.

Second is that “rebel groups’ leaderships have remained intact and at large” and that terror groups from various parts of Mindanao are also “prepared to supply and reinforce” them.

The third reason he cited is the presence of foreign terrorists who provide financial resources and reinforcement, and the fourth is that key personalities have yet to be neutralized, while others have escaped.

“The Constitution has given us the necessary tools to address the situation we are now faced. In behalf of the President, I implore Congress to enable the president to continue the task he has started and fulfill his promise to bring peace to Mindanao,” Medialdea said.

Medialdea pointed out that during the two-month period when martial law prevailed in Mindanao, several volumes of illegal drugs were confiscated from rebel groups.

“A large volume of drugs were taken from the rebel groups, as well as a large amount of money… We should (also) look into this,” he said.

Drilon, however, expressed concern that if martial law is extended to illegal drug syndicates, there is the possibility that it could be extended elsewhere.

Medialdea was firm in saying that illegal drugs supported the rebellion.

“There is a showing that they’ve (Maute Group) been using drugs as a means of funding their operations,” the executive secretary said.

He further explained that aside from the Maute Group, other groups are hitting the armed forces left and right.

“There are still 1,200 manpower of the rebel group operating in Mindanao. We cannot see the location they are going,” Medialdea said.

Aside from Drilon, Senators Risa Hontiveros, Francis Pangilinan, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, House of Representatives Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, ACT Rep. Antonio Tinio and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman among others also interpellate

  Gen.  Año admitted that he recommended to President Duterte the extension of martial law in Mindanao until the end of the year.

Año made the statement before lawmakers during the interpellation of Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman in a special joint session of Congress on Duterte’s request for martial law extension.

As implementor of martial law in the southern Philippines, Año gave the recommendation to Duterte to prevent a repeat of the attack launched by Daesh-inspired groups in Marawi City.

”We recommended sir up to 31 December of 2017 because as I’ve said, we wanted to finish all these Daesh-inspired groups so that there will be no repeat of the Marawi attack in the future,” he said.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who is martial law administrator, said he also gave the president a recommendation about a “specific area and a definitive time” regarding the martial law extension. Lorenzana, however, did not give further details.

When asked about the extent of devastation brought about by the Marawi crisis, Año said “so many catastrophic and destructive effects” of the ongoing rebellion have been caused, not by the military, but by the Maute terrorist group that occupied the now strife-torn city.

”The crisis in Marawi introduced the AFP to a newly-evolving type of urban warfare typical of the ISIS takeover to those of Iraq, notable of which are total disregard for civilian lives, cruelty to captured human beings both captured combatants and innocent individuals, and the nature of looting and pillaging occupied areas of Marawi,” the AFP chief said.

”We are doing our very best to be able to end the crisis at the soonest possible time… so that we can start the reconstruction of Marawi,”  he said.

Daesh is another name for the ISIS or Islamic State.

In the House,  Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas motioned to extend the period of martial law to five months.

House members who voted against the martial law extension were Reps. Gary Alejano, Jose Lito Atienza Jr., Teodoro  Baguilat, John Christopher Belmonte, Gabriel Bordado Arlene Brosas, Ariel Casilao, France Castro, Sarah Elago, Emmi De Jesus, Edcel Lagman, Antonio Tinio, Tom Villarin, and Carlos Zarate.

During the lawmakers’ explanation of vote, some of their colleagues began leaving the plenary hall while others stayed to watch.

Under the Constitution, the Congress has the sole power to extend martial law by voting jointly.

Malacanang, for its part, welcomed the Congress decision to extend the period of martial law in Mindanao.

”We thank Congress for approving the extension of martial law until December 31, 2017,” Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said.

He said that with the debates over, the government can now work on the recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi City.

“There is much work to be done to bring back public safety and law and order in the whole island of Mindanao,” Abella said.

The presidential spokesperson  described martial law as “essential to the overall peace and stability.”

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Saturday said it takes the affirmation as an acclamation and challenge to totally eliminate the remaining Maute Group terrorists in Marawi City.

“It’s an acclamation of the sacrifices of every Soldier, Airman, Sailor, and Marine who died; or were wounded or whose limbs were lost fighting or while supporting the fight to retake Marawi and liberate the hostages,” AFP public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said.

Arevalo said the task to neutralize the terrorists-extremists and degrade their capability; to rescue civilians trapped or held hostage; and to set the conditions for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi City– is daunting.

“But your AFP, aware of the enormity of the job that still needs to be done and the great expectations of our people, will measure up to the test,” he added.

And while the AFP thanked the people for their overwhelming support and manifestation of appreciation, Arevalo said the military urged fellow Filipinos to join hands and fight violent extremism and never allow its seeds to take roots in their midst.

“Only by accompanying our words of commitment with our resolute and united actions will the forces of good reign over that of evil,” he added.

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MARAWI CITY (PhilAmPress) – Although the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Department of National Defense and the Philippine National Police (PNP) have not made their recommendation on the martial law in Mindanao as the battle against terrorists in Marawi City has not stopped, President Rodrigo Duterte has hinted he is likely to extend the martial rule when it expires on July 22.

This developed as the number of fatalities in the Marawi siege which flared up on May 23 has breached 600 as more soldiers and terrorists are killed in the battle.

In a related development, a Second Quarter 2017 survey of the Social Weather Station showed that 57 percent of those surveyed support the declaration of martial law in Mindanao but more than six out of 10 oppose expanding it to Visayas and Luzon.

The extension of martial law maybe made before the President delivers his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) before Congress on July 24, two days before the 60-day martial law decree expires.

The 1987 Constitution states that Congress, upon the initiative of the President, “may extend such proclamation [of martial law]or the suspension [of the writ of habeas corpus]for a period to be determined by the Congress, if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it.”

The Supreme Court in its July 4 ruling that upheld Duterte’s martial law declaration under Proclamation 216, raised the possibility of extending military rule beyond 60 days.

While in Iligan City visiting the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army, Duterte told reporters that he will not lift martial law in Mindanao before his SONA as the situation in Marawi has remained critical.

“No,” the President stressed when asked if martial law would be lifted before his SONA.

He reiterated that he would make the decision based on the recommendation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and other security forces like the DND and the PNP.

Duterte said he had consulted with the military and was told that the situation in Marawi City was still“critical.”

“I consulted them and said it was critical. Ang magsabi sa akin na hindi na critical, ang Armed Forces pati ang pulis (Only the Armed Forces and the police can tell me if it is no longer critical),” he said. “So, I have just to rely on the word of the Armed Forces and the police because they are the one keeping this Republic healthy and alive,” he added.

“Pag sinabi na nilang wala nang delikado [When they say the situation is no longer delicate] and everything is okay, that’s the time we lift martial law,” he added. The President said that he does not “have an independent study” of the situation on the ground. “It’s not my job. And I cannot do it physically even,” he said.

PNP chief Director General Ronald de la Rosa, meanwhile, sees the need to extend martial law in Mindanao because the security situation there, particularly in Marawi City, is still critical.

De la Rosa and Interior and Local Government Secretary Catalino Cuy briefed some senators on the law and order situation and concerns of local governments in Marawi City. Present during the closed-door briefing were Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, Senate Majority Leader
Vicente Sotto III and Senators Sherwin Gatchalian, Gregorio Honasan II and Joseph Victor Ejercito.

President Duterte will meet with members of the Senate majority bloc on July 17,  said Sen. Pimentel, adding their agenda would be the “BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law) and the entire agenda of the Duterte administration, including martial law in Mindanao.”

Meanwhile, President Duterte indicated that he needs 10 to 15 more days to end the crisis in Marawi City, adding he was surprised the terrorists have not run out of weapons and ammunition.

“Palagay ko, 10 to 15 days, okay na,” he said during the 10th listing anniversary of the Davao-based Phoenix Petroleum Philippines, Inc. at the Philippine Stock Exchange in Makati City. “I need 15 more days.”

Duterte said he will once again try to go to Marawi City this week after his first two attempts failed due to bad weather. He reiterated that he wants to be with the soldiers while there is still fighting going on.

Echoing Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Duterte said he too was surprised that the Maute group was able to stockpile weapon in the city.

“This is the 45th, 46th day? Hindi maubus-ubos ang [armas], lalo na ‘yung grenades,” he said.

Duterte said he needed to visit Marawi City to check on troops at the frontlines of the government’s battle against pro-ISIS Maute Group fighters in the besieged city. He had already attempted to fly to Marawi twice but each time the weather was not conducive to flying.

“I have to be with the men, the fighting forces of the government. I should show my face there. Hindi naman pwede iyang peace time ka na pumunta,” Duterte  said in a brief interview posted on the Facebook page of the Presidential Communications Office.

“Hindi naman na you place yourself in jeopardy, but during the fighting, you should show yourself, that you are one in the desire to protect the Republic,” he added. “This is the second time. The last time I was not able to go in because also of the weather. Dito naman, ngayon ganoon din nangyari. We were circling many times but we could not penetrate, the weather was really squallid,” he said.

Marawi City has been under siege since May 23, when Maute fighters attacked several key installations in the city. While still in Russia that day, Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao to quell the terrorists rebellion.

The AFP has said it would give its recommendation on martial law to the President next week.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has previously expressed hope to end the fighting in Marawi in time for Duterte’s second SONA.

In the meantime, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said it is already finalizing its recommendations on the possible extension or lifting of martial law.

“It’s already being done and in a few days it will be submitted to the (Executive) Secretary for his consideration because he is the administrator of martial law. And that recommendation will make its way up to the Commander-in-Chief who will be provided an advance copy,” AFP Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Resituto Padilla Jr. said during the Mindanao Hour press briefing in Malacañang.

He said that the final assessment would be based on whether the rule of law as well as peace and security in most parts of Mindanao had been reestablished.

The AFP official likewise stressed however that whatever recommendations the military submit, the final decision is up to President Duterte.

“The Department of National Defense or the AFP could only recommend, pero ang eventual decision ay kinakailangang manggaling sa political leadership na merong mas malawak na pinag-iisipang o pinagbabatayan ng kanilang desisyon,” Padilla said.
The Supreme Court has upheld Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

The SWS survey found that 63% of respondents disagreed with the expansion of martial law in the Visayas and only some 23 percent agreed, while 13% were undecided about the matter.
The survey also found that 67% disagreed with the expansion of martial law in Luzon while only 20% agreed, while 13% were undecided.

“Extending martial law is the decision of the President which PRRD said would rest on the assessment and the recommendation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other stakeholders of the Marawi situation,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement.

His statement was issued following remarks by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez who said that he would push for a five-year extension of martial law.

“If I can convince my colleagues, I will push for an extension until 2022, because two months is too short. Five months or one year or two years is too short,” Alvarez said Saturday.

However, Abella pointed out that the Speaker has already clarified that “his remarks to extend martial law until 2022 is his personal opinion.” Many senators said they oppose Alvarez proposal. (PhilAmPress)

 

 

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