2 lawmakers raise 2019 poll worries due to martial law extension

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 14 2017 09:17 PM

Government troops scour the streets of Marawi City in the hunt for Maute fighters in the early days of the five-month fighting in the area. President Rodrigo Duterte placed Mindanao under martial law when the conflict broke out on May 23. Reuters/File

MANILA - Critics of President Rodrigo Duterte in the House of Representatives on Thursday expressed fears that the 2019 midterm polls may be cancelled and that some elected officials may get a lengthened term following the extension of martial law in Mindanao until next year.

Akbayan party-list Rep. Tom Villarin and Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano said the 1-year extension of military rule in Mindanao has implications on the upcoming elections.

"...Puwedeng wala ring elections sa May 2018. Mindanao is now a testing ground, conditioning the minds of the people [and] it could creep to Visayas and Luzon," Alejano said Thursday.

Villarin, meanwhile, expressed worries that the extension of martial law is part of a "scheme" towards a dictatorship.

"Perhaps the 2019 exercise [elections] can also be cancelled. That can be done through a partial amendment of the 1987 Constitution through con-ass (constitutional assembly)," he said.

"This whole scheme of martial law, this plan to fast-track con-ass would be basically towards the institution of Duterte, perhaps not just as a dictator for the next four years, but perhaps a dictator for life," he added.

Lawmakers on Wednesday approved President Rodrigo Duterte's request to extend martial law in Mindanao for another year to quell the threat of terrorism.

A total of 240 legislators voted to extend the military rule anew until the end of 2018 while 27 rejected the proposal.

Duterte had sought the extension of martial law arguing that it would help state forces better deal with lawless armed groups in Mindanao and ensure public safety.

The grant was the second extension of Duterte's initial 60-day martial law declaration in May, when firefights between state troops and Islamic State-linked terrorists erupted. 

Malacañang said Thursday that the fresh extension of martial rule in Mindanao would not lead to a nationwide authoritarian regime.