Lawmakers welcome possibility of extending Mindanao martial law

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 04 2017 09:02 PM

MANILA- More lawmakers have expressed openness to extending martial law in Mindanao after the Supreme Court upheld the declaration on Tuesday.

Lawmakers Danilo Suarez, Johnny Pimentel, and Robert Ace Barbers said they were not closing doors on the possibility of extending military rule in southern Philippines.

"I think [with] the situation far, far away from being normal, an extension may be in order," Suarez said.

Pimentel, who chairs the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability, said the high court's decision was expected given the ongoing siege in Marawi City.

"Baka kailangan pa nga extend kung 'di pa matapos yung kaguluhan sa Marawi. More than almost 400 already died. Kailangan ng Presidente ng power under martial law para ma-solve na 'tong problema sa Marawi," he said.

Barbers on the other hand said declaring martial law shows the President's resolve to clear Marawi City of remaining terrorists.

"This is a clear vindication of President Duterte's resolve to crush the Maute rebellion at all costs. Putting the entire Mindanao under martial law proved to be a wise move as it prevented possible reinforcements from reaching the rebels in Marawi," Barbers said.

President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire island of Mindanao under military rule on May 23 after clashes between government troops and Islamic State-inspired terrorists erupted.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court affirmed Duterte's declaration of martial law in Mindanao and dismissed several petitions that questioned its basis. 

It came on the 43rd day of the 60-day martial rule over Mindanao, just as government continued offensives against Maute and Abu Sayyaf terrorists still lurking around Marawi. 

In its ruling, 11 magistrates voted to uphold Duterte's declaration over all of Mindanao, while three voted to limit military rule within Marawi City and nearby areas. One justice, meanwhile, voted to nullify the proclamation altogether.

Unless extended by Congress, martial law lapses 60 days after declaration. Under the 1987 Constitution, Congress may approve an extension past 60 days if requested by the President.

Both the police and military chiefs have expressed willingness to extend the declaration to ensure a stable environment in the city when rehabilitation efforts begin. 

Last Saturday, former President now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said she was open to extending the declaration past the 60-day period prescribed by the Constitution.

Previously, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez also reportedly expressed openness to extending martial law till the end of the president's term in 2022.

OPPOSITION

Not all lawmakers, however, are in favor of the Supreme Court's decision.

Anakpawis party-list Rep. Ariel "Ka Ayik" Casilao condemned the Supreme Court decision, saying the high court failed to heed the people's call for justice through its lifting, as it only resulted in death and destruction in Marawi City.

"The decision is a dangerous precedent, as this would favor a false flag operation that could be launched in a single municipality or city, aiming for a martial law proclamation for the whole major island of the Visayas or Luzon, consequently, nationwide," Casilao said.

"The Supreme Court exposed itself as part of undermining democracy and proved that the legal system is tolerant of the agony and distress of the people victimized by the proclamation," he added.