Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, right, addresses troops during his visit to the 2nd Mechanized Brigade Friday, May 26, 2017 on the outskirts of Iligan city in southern Philippines. Duterte told the troops fighting Muslim militants for the control of southern Marawi city to use martial law powers to defeat the Islamic State group-linked extremists. At left is Armed Forces chief and martial law administrator Gen. Eduardo Ano and at center is Defense Chief Delfin Lorenzana. AP/Bullit Marquez

Lawyers' group warns martial law could be declared nationwide
(philstar.com) - December 13, 2017 - 8:15am

MANILA, Philippines — A group of lawyers on Wednesday warned that the approval of martial law extension in Mindanao is part of a scheme to put the entire country under military rule.

The National Union of People's Lawyers, in a statement, slammed the Congress approval of President Rodrigo Duterte's request to extend martial law rule in Mindanao until Dec. 31, 2018.

"The inordinate extension of martial law in the whole of Mindanao seems to be a part of a grand design or intent to eventually place the entire country under virtual military rule and completely transform the nation into a police state," NUPL, which usually represents political prisoners, said.

It took less than half a day for the Congress to approve Duterte's request. In an overwhelming vote of 14-4 in the Senate, and 226-23 in the House, the Congress extended martial law rule and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus over Mindanao for another year.

The NUPL stressed: "[T]here is objectively no sufficient factual basis which public safety requires. There is no actual and real—not threatened and predicted—rebellion in the entire of Mindanao of such intensity and scope as to honestly satisfy the strict extraordinary constitutional powers."

Rep. Edcel Lagman (Albay, 1st District) earlier raised the same argument. He cited the limitations set in the Constitution for the declaration of martial law that provides: "In case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he may, for a period not exceeding 60 days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law."

"Rebellion or invasion is not a state of mind or a state of fear," Lagman reminded his colleagues.

Red-tagging

The NUPL also pointed out the timing of Duterte's declaration to classify the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army as terrorist groups.

"It is now obvious that among the premeditated reasons for the recent moves for the proscription of the CPP-NPA which is waging their armed struggle all over the country for the longest time as 'terrorist' organizations is to lay expansive grounds not only for such extension of martial law in Mindanao but eventually to possibly put the whole country under effective military rule or institutionalize authoritarianism," the NUPL said.

On December 5, Duterte signed the proclamation to declare as terrorists the communists' armed wing. The NPA first took up arms in 1969 and has been fighting to put up a revolutionary government ever since.

Duterte, in his letter to the Congress, cited the continued clashes with, and the recruitment of the CPP-NPA among the grounds to extend martial law.

During the joint session of the Congress on Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon pointed out that: "When Martial Law was imposed last May 23 and extended last July 22, the NPA was never mentioned. Now, their activities are cited to justify the one-year extension."

"The NPA conflict has been there for the last four decades nationwide but suddenly in the extension, the NPA is cited," he added.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, for her part, also questioned Duterte's grounds: "Why would the government use Martial Law against an armed non-state group which it itself described as a 'spent force?'"

She further slammed the extension of the martial law: "This is more than appalling — this is exactly the kind of thinking that plunged our country into darkness decades ago, and this is the kind of thinking that the present Constitution seeks to correct."

READ: Senators question inclusion of NPA as basis for martial law extension

The NUPL warned that the seemingly swift approval of the martial law extension is just "stoking the wildfire of rights violations."

"The democratic space left for us to breathe is getting smaller and smaller by the day and will suffocate all our rights before we realize it," the NUPL also said.

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