LAWMAKERS on Tuesday rallied behind President Rodrigo Duterte’s request to Congress for a five-month extension of martial law in Mindanao.
“Congress will grant the desire of the President to extend the imposition of martial law in Mindanao so there will be no gap in the military operations in the region against terrorist attacks,” said House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.
“Majority of the Filipino are in favor of Duterte’s move to declare martial law to restore peace and order not only in the center of conflict in Marawi City but also to prevent the spread of lawlessness and violence in the entire Mindanao,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez added that even if the hostilities in Marawi stop, the threat of terrorism remains.
He noted that the Constitution requires Congress to hold a joint session if the President requests an extension of martial law, which expires on July 22. The session would decide not only whether or not to support the request, but also decide on the duration of the extension.
Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles also expressed support for an extension.
“We are 100 percent behind the President in any decision concerning the present situation in Mindanao. As commander-in-chief, the President has in his possession sensitive intel and the best information on the continuing threats of terrorism in the region.”
Nograles said he belives the PDP-Laban dominated House of Representatives will grant the request of the President to extend martial law until Dec. 31.
“Up to this point, the declaration of martial law has allowed government to surgically operate against the rebel terrorist groups and led to the capture of ranking rebel terrorist leaders in Davao and Lanao, among others,” Nograles, chairman of the House committee on appropriations, said.
“If the President and the military need to continue with their operations to ensure that the rebellion and terrorism are contained without spilling over to other parts of the country then we must entrust to our President what the Constitution provides as self-preservation of the integrity of our nation,” Nograles added.
Besides, he said the Duterte administration has been able to show that under this martial law no abuses were committed and no rights were trampled on , and this was even validated by survey results indicating that Mindanaoans are in favor of martial law considering the present circumstances.
Deputy speaker and Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu added that an extension of martial law would be for the greater good of the Mindanaoans.
“I support President Duterte’s call to Congress for a special session on Saturday, July 22 on the extention of martial law… in Mindanao. It is in accordance with the Constitution,” Abu said.
added: “I fully believe that he considered all the available information and intelligence reports before coming up with such decision.”
But Akbayan Party-List Rep. Tom Villarin dismissed the government’s martial law extension in Mindanao as “a whimsical proposal.”
“It has no substantive grounds other than the President’s wishes. From verbalizing 60 days in a dinner with congressional leaders, now the President wants to make it five months.
“It seems they are not sure when to end martial law nor do they have clear outcomes,” said Villarin, a member of the opposition.
“Clearly Congress needs to put parameters to it as its constitutional mandate for legislative review is now on the table. The joint session on July 22 will be watched closely by our people [to see] how Congress responds to this challenge,” he added.
An administration ally in the Senate, meanwhile, said an extension period longer than 60 days would be difficult to justify.
“The President said 60 days. That’s easy to extend. But we’ll have a harder time explaining a longer extension,” said Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III.
Sotto and Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and House leaders had dinner with Duterte Monday night. Other majority bloc senators and congressmen were also present.
After the dinner, Sotto said it was Duterte who told him that he wants to extend martial law in Mindanao just for another 60 days. He has since amended that to the end of the year.
Asked if he will support a five-month extension, Sotto said he will decide based on the presentation of security officials in support of the recommendation scheduled on Wednesday.
Senator Grace Poe, in a separate text message, said she will also wait for the security briefing.
“Aside from their inputs, we also have constituents on the ground who will send their feedback. Only then will I be able to determine my position on the martial law extension,” Poe said.
Congress is set to convene in a special session on Saturday to discuss the martial law extension. The 60-day proclamation in Mindanao resulting from the attack of the pro-ISIS Maute group on Marawi City last May 23, will lapse on the same day.
In an interview with the news channel ANC, Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Maria Sison opposed an extension of martial law.
“The threat to declare martial law nationwide would certainly be a declaration of war against the revolutionary movement,” Sison told ANC. “It would practically kill the peace negotiations.”
Sison said extending the duration of martial law in Midnanao could also be used against communist rebels in the region.
The leftist Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said it feared the Duterte administration was becoming a military dictatorship.
“Is the Duterte regime on its way to becoming a military dictatorship? This is our greatest fear now that President Duterte wants martial law extend in Mindanao and possibly elsewhere,” Bayan said in a statement.
Bayan said the last 60 days of martial law in Mindanao have seen a spike in human rights violations of civilian communities affected by increases and intensified military and police operations.
“In any case, since last year, Duterte has already placed the entire country under a state of national emergency. He is already empowered to call on the military to quell any act of lawless violence, including acts of terrorism,” Bayan said.
“Thus, Bayan registers its strong opposition to President Duterte’s plans to extend or expand martial law. We call on Congress not to be a party to this dangerous ploy. We call on the people to resist such moves to impose a military dictatorship on the country. We say, never again,” Bayan said. With Sandy Araneta
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