President Duterte speaks during the awarding ceremony for child-friendly municipalities and cities at Malacañang yesterday. KJ Rosales

Duterte wants ‘unli’ martial law – critics
Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) - December 12, 2017 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines — With his new request for Congress to extend it by one more year, President Duterte wants to perpetuate martial law in Mindanao, opposition congressmen said yesterday.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said a one-year extension would mean martial law “in perpetuity.”

Echoing Lagman’s view, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said it is virtually “unlimited or unli-martial law.”

“It is very dangerous, that is why affected people, especially the displaced residents of Marawi and other provinces, are totally opposed to it,” Zarate said.

“We said it before and we will say it again and again: There is no basis for extending martial rule in Mindanao. It only causes hardships and sufferings to our people,” he said.

Lagman maintained that lengthening the imposition of martial law in Mindanao would violate the Constitution.

It would also show the “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, and blatant mockery of the liberality of the majority of the Supreme Court in upholding the President’s past questionable actions.”

“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,” he said.

“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the liberation of Marawi City from rebels and terrorists almost two months ago, and government combat forces had been withdrawn,” he said.

Zarate explained that the alleged terrorist threats cited by the President in his letter to Congress “do not warrant an extension of martial law as the same can be addressed by normal police and military powers.”

“What is further alarming is that the letter 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,” he said.

An extended martial law, according to him, could be used as a “smokescreen so that rehabilitation operations in Marawi would be conducted without bidding.”

“It can be used to short-circuit and even do away with the rules on bidding and procurement process, which can potentially open windows for graft and corruption for this multibillion program,” he added.

Another militant group, Gabriela, said it was absurd for the President to cite communist insurgency as a basis for extending martial law “since it has been raging prior to and independent of the Marawi siege.”

“Repackaging the longest-running communist insurgency in Asia as actual terror threat to public safety in order to justify the martial law extension in Mindanao is both dangerous and farcical. This lays down the pretext for a possible expansion of martial law on a nationwide scale, since the CPP-NPA claims to operate across the country,” Gabriela said.

Extension justified

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, however, believes the one-year extension is justified as “there is rebellion in Mindanao” as seen with the siege of Marawi City.

He said that according to security officials, while there is no actual fighting now in Marawi City or other parts of Mindanao, militants from the Maute group, the Abu Sayyaf and another Islamic State-linked group, plus the communist NPA continue to pose threats and could strike again anytime.

“The (attacks) are not everyday but you in the media report attacks. It doesn’t have to be siege. The Revised Penal Code (RPC) does not require that the rebellion is only through siege of a city,” he said.

Pimentel, who is also the president of Duterte’s PDP-Laban party, debunked criticisms that the President’s inclusion of the NPA was not a justification as the rebel group was not considered in the first declaration of martial law.

He said the RPC, which defines rebellion, requires armed public uprising but did not mandate that it be staged by the same rebels. 

The Constitution does not require that the rebellion must be maintained by the same rebels, he said.

Pimentel said a one-year extension of martial law is better than a longer period because of the mechanism that allows it to be extended.

“There is this mandatory period in time when you will have to justify the request for extension. If it is five years, then the martial law administrator can forget us,” he said, referring to Congress.

Sen. Gregorio Honasan, chairman of the Senate committee on national defense and security, is supportive of the extension, saying he trusts the judgment of security officials.

Honasan said martial law will allow local government units more space to work on rehabilitation and improve the delivery of basic services with government forces securing Mindanao from threats. – Paolo Romero

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