In a letter to the House of Representatives and the Senate dated December 8, Duterte said the New People’s Army intensified its rebellion and “terrorist attacks” against civilians while the government was busy addressing the problems caused by jihadists. AP/Bullit Marquez, File

‘Martial law to be used vs NPA’
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - December 11, 2017 - 4:00pm

Congress sets joint session on Duterte proposal

MANILA, Philippines — The threat posed by communist rebels was one of the reasons cited by President Duterte to justify his request for Congress to extend martial law in Mindanao by one more year.

In a letter to the House of Representatives and the Senate dated Dec. 8, Duterte said the New People’s Army intensified its rebellion and “terrorist attacks” against civilians while the government was busy addressing the problems caused by jihadists.

“The New People’s Army took advantage of the situation and intensified their decades-long rebellion against the government and stepped up terrorist acts against innocent civilians and private entities as well as guerrilla warfare against the security sector and public and government infrastructure, purposely to seize political power through violent means and supplant the country’s democratic form of government with communist rule,” the President said.

“These recent developments involving the NDF-CPP-NPA (National Democratic Front-Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army) forebode another year of intensified armed hostilities which, together with other security concerns described above, continue to make Mindanao the hotbed of rebellion,” he added.

The NPA is the armed component of the communist movement while the CPP serves as its political arm. The NDF used to represent the rebels in the peace talks with the government before negotiations collapsed this year.

Duterte is asking Congress to extend martial law in Mindanao by one year to curb the threats posed by the Islamic State (IS)-linked terrorists who survived the Marawi siege and other armed groups.

The President imposed military rule in Mindanao on May 23 after terrorists laid siege to Marawi City, kidnapped dozens of civilians and burned several buildings.

Congress voted to extend martial law until the end of the year last July. The President did not mention the communist threat when he sought an extension of martial law in Mindanao five months ago.

Duterte declared Marawi liberated from terrorists last October but did not lift martial law because of supposed threats in other parts of Mindanao like Basilan and Sulu.

Last week, the military recommended a one-year extension of martial law in Mindanao, saying the government needs to run after other armed groups in the south.

Civil society groups and the political opposition are concerned that the extension of martial law in Mindanao would lead to abusive practices and human rights violations.

Duterte requested the extension two weeks after he terminated peace talks with communist rebels, whom he accused of pushing for a coalition government.

The request also came a week after he declared the NPA and the CPP as terrorist groups.

The extension of military rule in Mindanao has to secure the nod of Congress, which will go on a month-long break from Dec. 15.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the administration expects intensified clashes between government forces and communist rebels.

Roque said the President would use the “full force” of martial law against the NPA “as long as there are acts of rebellion being committed in the island province of Mindanao.”

Asked if an arrest order would also be issued against NPA members, Roque said: “Of course. That goes without saying that the martial law administrator is empowered to order the arrest of individuals and because the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is also suspended, then they would have to await the lifting of martial law for judicial remedy.”

In his letter, Duterte said the NPA has perpetrated a total of 385 atrocities in Mindanao, which resulted in the death of 41 government troopers and the wounding of 62 others.

The violent incidents involving communists also left 23 civilians dead and six others wounded, he added.

Duterte said the communist insurgents also staged 59 arson incidents in Mindanao and has destroyed P2.2 billion worth of properties. Among the companies attacked by the rebels were the Lapanday Food Corp. in Davao City, the Mil-Oro Mining and Frasec Ventures Corp. in Davao Oriental.

He said the atrocities prompted him to issue Proclamation No. 360 declaring the termination of peace negotiations with the communists and Proclamation No. 374 labeling the CPP and NPA as terrorist organizations.

Other threats

The President also cited the threats posed by remnants of the Maute group, the Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in his letter to Congress.

He said the remnants of the group of terrorist leader Isnilon Hapilon and brothers Abdullah and Omar Maute have continued to recruit and train new members and fighters. Hapilon and Omar died in a clash last October while Abdullah was killed last September.

Duterte claimed that at least 185 persons listed in the martial law arrest orders remain at large.

He said members of the IS-inspired Da’awatul Islamiyah Waliyatul Masriq (DIWM) and their supporters have been building up finances and logistics and reorganizing in Central Mindanao, particularly in Maguindanao, North Cotabato, Sulu and Basilan.

“These activities are geared toward 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 (state or province) not only in the Philippines but also in the whole of Southeast Asia,” Duterte said.

The President also mentioned the presence of a certain Turaife group, which was reportedly planning to stage bombings in Cotabato.

He said Abu Turaife, described by some reports as a commander of a BIFF breakaway group, is a “potential successor” of Hapilon as an emir of the IS in the Philippines and Southeast Asia.

Duterte said the BIFF, breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, continued to defy the government by perpetrating at least 15 violent incidents during the martial law period in Maguindanao and North Cotabato. The group has initiated at least 89 violent incidents this year, he added.

The remnants of the Abu Sayyaf, Duterte claimed, remain a “serious security concern.” The terrorist group is believed to have presence in Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Zamboanga peninsula.

Duterte said the Abu Sayyaf, which has been involved in several kidnapping incidents and bombings, has conducted at least 43 acts of terrorism which claimed the lives of eight civilians, three of whom were beheaded.

Joint session

The Senate and the House of Representatives would convene and hold this week a joint session to deliberate on the proposal of President Duterte to extend martial law in Mindanao for another year.

“Our session officially ends on Friday, Dec. 15; hence, we may have a joint session on Thursday or Friday as part of the 2nd Regular Session, without need of a special session,” House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas told reporters in a Viber group message.

Fariñas said there is no need to hold a special session as espoused by Malacañang earlier to discuss the martial law request, since Congress has until Dec. 15 to deliberate on it before it adjourns for the Christmas break.

Security officials are expected to brief senators today on the situation in Marawi City and other parts of Mindanao, which Duterte said remains under serious threat not only from Islamic extremists but also communist rebels.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said economic managers and human rights officials will also give their respective briefings and answer questions from senators.

“Then, Wednesday morning is the joint session. We start in the morning, I don’t know what time we’ll finish,” Pimentel told reporters.

The Senate last night approved the concurrent resolution calling for a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.

Under the Constitution, the president needs congressional permission to extend any existing declaration of martial law.

The Senate and the House are to vote jointly, so senators are expected to be outvoted by the congressmen.

Meanwhile, opposition Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay yesterday said Duterte’s request for a one-year extension “amounts to a patent violation of the safeguards which the 1987 Constitution imposes for the limited grounds and duration of martial law and its extension.”

It is also a “malevolent perpetuation of the subjugation of the supermajority in the Congress by the President even against the unequivocal provisions of the Constitution protecting civil liberties and the rule of law.”

The Philippine Councilors League (PCL) of the Philippines expressed support for Duterte’s request for an extension of martial law in Mindanao for another year.

The PCL endorsed to the President its support to the recommendation of the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on the extension of martial law.

The decision of the PCL was made during its executive officers’ meeting last week following the resolution of the Mindanao councilors in the PCL board.

Davao City councilor Danilo Dayanghirang, chair of the PCL, said Mindanaoans have noted a surge in investors who felt that their investments are more secure under martial law.

Activists of the human rights group Karapatan, however, claimed that the extension of martial law in Mindanao could bring the country closer to nationwide military rule.

“This is a dangerous precedent that inches the entire country closer to a nationwide declaration of martial rule. Martial law in Mindanao has paved the way for the intensification of rights violations – both within and outside of Marawi,” Cristina Palabay, secretary-general of Karapatan said.

Palabay added that if this is allowed in Congress, speculation will be enough to put the entire country under martial law, “creating an environment for state security forces to continue violations without accountability.”

Since the declaration of martial law last May 23, Karapatan said it recorded at least 29 victims of extrajudicial killings, including 15 cases in Southern Mindanao.

Many of the supposed victims were members of local peasant organizations and affiliates of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), who were targeted for their local campaigns for genuine agrarian reform and against militarization. –Delon Porcalla, Paolo Romero, Michael Punongbayan, Edith Regalado, Artemio Dumlao, Roel Pareño

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