Congress sets joint session to tackle martial law extension

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 11 2017 07:06 PM

Marawi residents from 24 barangays located in the main battle area take a first look at Marawi since the end of the war. Photo taken November 21, 2017. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Congress will sit in a joint session this Wednesday to consider the President's request to extend martial law in Mindanao from January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018.

House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said the joint session to consider the request of the President for the further extension of the proclamation of Martial Law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao will be held on Wednesday, December 13, 2017, at 9 a.m.

Congressional leaders received their copy of the President's request early Monday.

Congress goes on its Christmas vacation from December 16, 2017 to January 14, 2018.

In his letter to Congress, President Duterte said the military wants to finish the job of eradicating terrorist groups in Mindanao.

Part of Duterte's letter to Congress read: "A further extension of Martial Law and suspension of writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao will help the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines), the Philippine National Police, and all other law enforcement agencies to quell completely and put an end to the ongoing rebellion in Mindanao and prevent the same from escalating to other parts of the country."

"Public safety indubitably requires such further extension, not only for the sake of security and public order, but more importantly to enable the government and the people of Mindanao to pursue the bigger task of rehabilitation and the promotion of a stable socio-economic growth and development."

The President said the defeat of the Islamic State-inspired Maute terrorists in the 5-month long Marawi siege did not necessarily spell the end to the terror threat in Mindanao, as remnants of the group and their supporters continued their recruitment and training of new members “to carry on the rebellion.”

He cited 185 personalities in the martial law arrest orders who remain at large and, “in all probability, are presently regrouping and consolidating their forces.”

Duterte also said the Islamic State-inspired Da’awatul Islamic Waliyatul Masriq has been monitored to be consolidating forces in Central Mindanao.

“These activities are geared towards the conduct of intensified atrocities and armed public uprisings in support of their objective of establishing the foundation of a global Islamic caliphate and of a Wilayat not only in the Philippines but also in the whole of Southeast Asia,” Duterte said.

It also cites the Turaife Group as being monitored to be planning to conduct bombings, notably targeting the Cotabato Area. Turaife is said to be Hapilon's potential successor.

It also notes that the BIFF continues to defy the government by perpetrating at least 15 violent incidents during the martial law period in Maguindanao and North Cotabato. "For this year, the BIFF has initiated at least 89 violent incidents."

It also cites the remnants of the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan, Sulu, Tawi Tawi, and Zamboanga peninsula as well as threats from local terrorist groups and the NPA.

NO TO MARTIAL LAW EXTENSION

Opposition lawmaker Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman opposed the extension of martial law, saying it would be a patent violation of the safeguards which the 1987 Constitution imposes for the limited grounds and duration of martial rule.

"Where is the actual invasion or actual rebellion in Mindanao? The Constitution provides that martial law can only be declared and its extension authorized in case of invasion or rebellion when public safety requires it. Since the original or initiatory declaration of martial law is limited to not more than 60 days, it stands to reason that any extension is subject to the same constraints with respect to duration and grounds," he said in a statement. 

"There is no more factual basis for the extension of martial law in Mindanao after President Duterte declared the liberation of Marawi City from rebels and terrorists almost two months ago, and government combat forces had been withdrawn."

The lawmaker questioned the need to extend martial law in Mindanao purportedly to contain continuing threats by terrorists.

"This is not a constitutional ground because threat or imminent danger of an invasion or rebellion has been removed as a ground for martial law in the 1987 Constitution for being self-serving, contingent and even nebulous. It is even arguable that not more than one extension is allowed because a series of extensions would violate the constitutional intent for a limited martial law duration...," he added. 

Instead of extending martial law, he said the President's alternative is "to call the Armed Forces to subdue lawless violence or declare martial law anew but limited by constitutional restraints and subject to the oversight powers of the Congress and the Supreme Court."

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate also scored the proposal to extend martial law, saying the virtual "unli-martial law" is dangerous and could lead to a spike in human rights violations. 

"We said it before and we will say it again and again: there is no basis for extending martial rule in Mindanao; it would only cause hardships and sufferings to our people.The mentioned reasons on the letter do not warrant an extension of Martial law as the same can be addressed by normal police and military powers," he said. 

"What is further alarming though is that the letter also includes as new reason the terror-tagging of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People's Army (NPA), which may also signal intensified attacks by the military and the police on peasant and lumad communities."