Congress, in a joint session, on Wednesday approved the request of President Rodrigo Duterte to extend martial law in Mindanao for another year.
Voting 235-28-1, the Senate and the House of Representatives also extended the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole Mindanao until the end of 2019.
The Senate voted 12-5-1 and the House voted 223-23-0 on the President’s request after almost five hours of deliberations. The joint session opened at 9 a.m. and adjourned almost 2 p.m. Wednesday.
Twelve senators voted in support of the martial law extension. They were Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, and Senators Gregorio Honasan II, Panfilo Lacson, Richard Gordon, Cynthia Villar, Grace Poe, Aquilino Pimentel III, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Juan Edgardo Angara, Sherwin Gatchalian, and Emmanuel Pacquiao.
The five senators who opposed the President’s desire for extended military rule in Mindanao were Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Franklin Drilon, Francis Escudero, Risa Hontiveros, and Francis Pangilinan; while Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto abstained.
On the part of the House, those who supported the martial law extension in the South were Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who also presided towards the end of the joint session, with Sotto.
READ: Arroyo, Gordon for ML extension
Earlier in the joint session, House Majority Leader Andaya, who made a motion to approve the joint resolution calling for martial law extension, said the House backed the assessment of police and military officials that there was “a continuing rebellion in Mindanao.”
Andaya, representative of Camarines Sur, said the House believes a “further extension of martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus will enable the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines], PNP [Philippine National Police], and all other law enforcement agencies to finally put an end to the rebellion, keep it from escalating to other parts of the country, and prevent a catastrophe similar to what happened in Marawi City.”
Reps. Luis Raymund Villafuerte of Camarines Sur and Raneo Abu of Batangas City backed the martial law extension in Mindanao.
“Based on the assessment of the AFP and PNP, the people of Mindanao want martial law to continue. They have responded favorably to its implementation and the way that the military and police have handled it with utmost respect for the human rights of the people they are tasked to protect,” Villafuerte said.
A vice chairman of the House committee on national defense and security, Villafuerte pointed out that the President had cited existing threats from terrorist groups like the Abu Sayyaf, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and Daulah Islamiyah in asking the Congress to grant him an extension of another year in imposing martial law in Mindanao.
Villafuerte also noted the position of the PNP that martial law could avert a potential bloody midterm election next summer, given that nearly all of the 77 armed groups reportedly monitored by the police in the country are operating in the South.
Villafuerte noted that PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde had pointed out that he has not heard of a single case of a human rights violation in Mindanao since the implementation thereof martial law.
Quoting the President, Villafuerte pointed out that both the AFP and PNP have submitted their respective security assessments indicating that rebellion “still persists in Mindanao and public safety requires the continuation of martial law.”
Opposition lawmakers, meanwhile, said there was no justifiable reason for an extended martial law in Mindanao.
“There is no constitutional and factual bases for the extension because rebellion does not persist in Mindanao and public safety is not imperiled,” Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said.
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate said the government’s justification for a third martial law extension in Mindanao was “cut and paste” from last year.
Akbayan party-list Rep. Tom Villarin echoed Lagman’s view. “The greatest threat in Mindanao is not from terrorist groups but the thinking that only martial law can solve its problems that are deeply rooted in conflict and poverty.
Malacañang welcomed the approval by both houses of Congress.
“We thank our lawmakers for sharing the Executive’s view that the extension is purely intended for the general welfare and well being of the people of Mindanao. Public safety demands decisive action from our President, whose primordial mandate is to protect and serve the people,” Palace spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
Panelo said the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao beginning Jan. 1, 2019 until Dec. 31, 2019 is a positive development, and again pointed to significant gains under military rule.
Earlier, the Justice Department supported Duterte’s call for a year-long extension, with Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra saying there was a factual basis for his request.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, however, said martial law cannot be the “new normal” and insisted there was no actual rebellion or armed uprising in Mindanao that would justify military rule.
“The persistence to continuously place Mindanao under martial law, without any clear showing of actual rebellion, makes me wonder: Is this the new normal?” said Drilon, who voted no to the third extension of martial law in Mindanao.
Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros also objected to the extension of martial law.
The leftist Bagong Alyansang Makabayan or Bayan also scored the extension of martial law in Mindanao.
Renato Reyes, Bayan secretary general, said the martial law extension had no “legal and factual basis.”
“There is no actual rebellion and invasion. The Constitution has been ignored,” he added.
He accused the Duterte administration of trying to set the condition of the people in the “normalization” of military rule to give way for a nationwide martial law.
The Defense Department and the AFP welcomed the decision of Congress to extend martial law.
“The Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines are grateful for the overwhelming vote of confidence of our legislators as well as the strong support of the Filipino people, especially of the Mindanaoans, which made possible the third Congressional Extension of Martial Law in Mindanao,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a statement Wednesday.
He added that the AFP will continue to uphold its mandate of defending the sovereignty of the state, upholding the integrity of Philippine territory and protecting the democratic way of life of the Filipino people, with full respect for human rights, international humanitarian law and the primacy of the rule of law. With PNAREAD: SC justice backs ML extension
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