VICE President Leni Robredo said Friday there was no compelling reason to also declare martial law in Luzon and the Visayas should the terrorists spread terror outside Mindanao, which President Rodrigo Duterte had placed under martial rule to neutralize them.
“It is difficult to react because, first of all, we believe there is not enough reason to declare [martial law] in the Visayas and Luzon,” Robredo said.
She said she was supportive of the administration due to the serious problem of terrorism, but the people must be reassured that the abuses committed in the dark years of martial law during the Marcos administration would not happen again.
“We want to be assured by the government and the Armed Forces that there will be no more repeat of what had happened in the past,” Robredo said.
“That is why we have to stay vigilant.”
Former President Fidel Ramos said martial law may be the correct solution to fight terror but it should only be declared in a limited part of Mindanao.
Duterte placed the entire Mindanao under martial law after suspected members of the Maute Group attacked Marawi City early this week.
“If it is true that it [martial law] may be extended in Luzon and the Visayas, then that is very panicky,” Ramos told reporters.
He said there is nothing wrong about declaring martial law but the government must acknowledge that there were also peaceful areas in Mindanao where such was not necessary.
“There is enough peace there that need not be subjected to martial law,” Ramos said.
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno urged the people to be vigilant and give what she called “One Big Fight!” to prevent the repeat of the “historical sins” committed by Marcos following the proclamation of martial law in 1972.
In her speech during the commencement exercises at the Ateneo De Manila Loyola Schools on Friday, Sereno expressed no objection to Duterte’s proclamation of martial law for as long as the government exercised its martial law powers within the bounds of the 1987 Constitution.
“If President Duterte and the . . . government authorities avoid the gross historical sins of Mister Marcos and his agents, then our country might reap the benefits of the legitimate use of the provisions on martial law in the 1987 Constitution,” Sereno said.
Senator Francis Pangilinan demanded a joint session of Congress to tackle the declaration of martial law in Mindanao and the suspension of the privilege of writ of habeas corpus in a transparent official proceeding.
“We urge Congress leaders to rethink their position and convene the joint session of Congress,” Pangilinan said.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said there was no need for the Senate and the House of Representatives to convene in a joint session if the majority of their members agreed with the declaration of martial law.
Human Rights Watch said the Philippine government’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao threatened to widen the scope of the abuses under Duterte.
On May 23, the Duterte administration declared martial law and suspended the write of habeas corpus after the Islamist group Maute attacked Marawi City and killed three security force officers and burned several buildings, including a hospital and a school, Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said.
Maute fighters took a priest and several others hostage.
But the imposition of martial law in the midst of Duterte’s war on drugs in which more than 7,000 people had been killed since June raised grave concerns of the ever-widening human rights violations in the country, Kine said.
“The Philippine government has a responsibility to protect the population from armed militants, but gaining the backing of affected people means abiding by the rule of law,” Kine said.
“Martial law is not a free pass for abuse.
“Duterteç—´ martial law threatens military abuses in Mindanao that could rival the murderous drug war in the urban areas.
“It’s crucial that the country’s security forces abide by international law at all times and hold rights violators to account.”