MANILA - Lawmakers who said no to extending martial law in Mindanao by another year were given the chance to explain their vote after Congress granted President Rodrigo Duterte's request Wednesday.
Taking turns addressing their colleagues, the lawmakers pointed out that the extension, which was given a green light by Congress in a lopsided 240-27 vote, has no basis as the siege of Marawi City by Islamic State-linked fighters- the incident that had prompted the President's initial 60-day declaration in May- is already over.
In his request to extend martial law until the end of 2018, Duterte cited not just the threat of terrorism but also of the communist insurgency.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan, president of the opposition Liberal Party, said Congress' grant of Duterte's request is like a "surrender" of its power to act as a check and balance on the Executive branch.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros said she voted no because of the notion of the executive that "public safety is an abstract idea and martial law is a flexible concept that allows the President to do flexible things."
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, for his part, maintained that the martial law extension Congress granted is just "an extension of an extension" of the original proclamation, which is unconstitutional.
Congress had first extended martial law in July, a period that was supposed to lapse by the end of this year.
Quezon City Rep. Christopher Belmonte also expressed concerns that the government might get used to resorting to martial law to resolve problems. For this, he said he votes for the "normalization of military rule."
ACT Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio, meanwhile, called the legislature a "rubber stamp Congress," lamenting that there was no longer any debate at Wednesday's joint session.
For Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate, government should be pushing for peace talks, particularly with the communist rebels, to attain a more lasting solution, instead of pushing for martial law.
Government had recently terminated peace talks with the communist movement over persistent rebel attacks against state troops.
Others who explained their no votes were Kaka Bag-ao of Dinagat Islands, Raul Del Mar of Cebu, and Gabriel Borado of Camarines Sur, and party-list lawmakers Tom Villarin of Akbayan, Arlene Brosas and Emmi De Jesus of Gabriela, Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis, France Castro of ACT, and Sarah Elago of Kabataan.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, meanwhile, submitted his statement of opposition to martial law in letter form, just for the record.
He had argued against the extension earlier in the joint session.