Tindig Pilipinas on Wednesday called the extension of martial law in Mindanao until the end of 2018 an admission of incompetence and a power grab by the government. The STAR/Boy Santos, File

Martial law extension admission of 'incompetence,' 'power grab'
Audrey Morallo (philstar.com) - December 13, 2017 - 9:54am

MANILA, Philippines — The extension of martial law is an admission of incompetence and a power grab by a "murderous, corrupt and increasingly" isolated government, an opposition group said on Wednesday, hours after the Philippine Congress granted President Rodrigo Duterte's request to extend martial law in Mindanao until the end of 2018.

It just took the Senate and the House of Representatives half a day to approve the chief executive's request as both chambers are dominated by Duterte's political allies.

Fourteen senators and 226 House members supported the motion to extend until Dec. 31, 2018 martial law in Mindanao which was declared on May 23 following a bloody and costly attempt by Islamic State-inspired militants to take over the lakeside town of Marawi and establish a caliphate, or province, there.

In justifying his request, the president cited the continuing threats of ISIS-inspired fighters, local terror groups and communist militants as grounds that would warrant the extension of military rule, which is slated to lapse at the end of the year following its first extension in July.

However, Tindig Pilipinas, a coalition of opposition groups and civil society groups, Rep. Gary Alejano (Magdalo) and Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino did not buy the president's rationale and stressed that the Constitution does not allow this second extension.

READ: ‘Martial law not meant to defer barangay, local elections,’ DND chief says

"The extension of martial law in Mindanao cannot be seen as anything but an admission of incompetence and a power grab by a murderous, corrupt and increasingly isolated regime," Tindig Pilipinas said in a statement.

"Nothing in our Constitution nor the realities on the ground justifies this request for an extension. The government attempts to show itself as competent and strong by bragging about its long drawn and stumbling campaign to capture the Maute group but has left Marawi, its businesses, its homes and most especially its people and children in ruins and desperation," it said.

READ: 'Passage of delayed Bangsamoro law key to fighting ISIS influence'

Duterte's declaration of martial law and his all-military approach to the security concerns in the region, the group said, were just a ploy to cover the administration's "festering" corruption and "obvious" incompetence.

The group also warned that military rule and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao, a region of 22 million plagued by underdevelopment and extreme poverty, were just a prelude to a possible declaration of martial law in the whole country.

"Our Constitution does not allow it. The insistence of the Duterte government and its lapdogs in Congress on doing this is yet another proof that they do not care for our laws, our democracy and the real sentiments and needs of our people," Tindig Pilipinas stressed as it called on Filipinos to resist what it called "creeping fascism" on all fronts.

"The extension of martial law in Mindanao is but one facet of an emerging dictatorship," it said.

READ: Kabataan rep: Martial law extension 'free pass for rights violations'

Aquino also expressed the same apprehensions that martial law could be declared nationwide since Maoist militants have a presence in many parts of the country.

"The reasons given by the executive are persistent all over the country, not just in Mindanao. The logic used in the request for extension can easily be used to declare nationwide martial law,” he said, adding that the one-year extension was unreasonable.

Alejano, the Magdalo representative, said that the extension was not really meant to address security problems in the country, claiming that there was a political motive behind the move.

"This at our expense, the military and the Filipino people," he said.

READ: Lorenzana: Rebellion still active elsewhere in Mindanao

Alejano also tried to answer, point-by-point, the administration's justification for the extension of military rule.

Martial law extension was not justified, he said, because the crisis in Marawi was already over, and it was contrary to the provisions of the 1987 Constitution which allowed such declaration only if there was actual rebellion or invasion or when public safety required it.

"There is no stopping the president and the Armed Forces from going after terrorists even without declaring martial law. Martial law is not equivalent to combat operations," the opposition congressman said, adding that arrest and search could be effected even without military rule.

He also expressed fears that extending martial law for one year would weaken civilian authority and supremacy over the military.

READ:  MAT: Martial law extension a danger to human rights, democracy

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