Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo on Thursday raised the possibility of extending martial law – imposed on May 23 last year at the outset of the siege of Marawi City by Islamic State-linked militants.
Boy Santos
Senators need to be convinced on longer martial law in Mindanao
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - October 20, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang will have to present convincing arguments to Congress before lawmakers can agree to another extension of martial law in Mindanao, senators said yesterday.

“I’m sure the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) will brief both houses of Congress on the subject. My concurrence or objection will depend on the presentation, including its accuracy,” Senate President Vicente Sotto III said.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo on Thursday raised the possibility of extending martial law – imposed on May 23 last year at the outset of the siege of Marawi City by Islamic State-linked militants.

An extension, if approved, would be the third. Panelo claimed that martial law has greatly helped the military and police maintain peace and order in Mindanao. He said Mindanao residents themselves acknowledge the benefits of martial law.

The Supreme Court last February upheld the constitutionality of the one-year extension of martial law under Duterte’s Proclamation 216.

The approval of the Senate and the House of Representatives voting in joint session is required to again extend the validity of the proclamation.

Sen. Gregorio Honasan, chairman of the defense and national security committee, said he would listen first to what  “administrators, implementors, unwitting victims and intended beneficiaries” would say about martial law.

“We will assess the present situation in Mindanao before deciding to allow another extension of martial law,” said Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the committee on public order and dangerous drugs.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said he hopes a security briefing on the matter is held as soon as Congress resumes session next month.

The minority bloc, however, was not inclined to support any extension of martial law.

“At this point, I have not been advised of any request for martial law extension in Mindanao, and I do not see any factual basis for such extension,” Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan, president of the Liberal Party, vowed to continue opposing the Mindanao-wide martial law as he did last year. He said there was no indication of actual invasion or rebellion that could justify prolonging military rule in Mindanao.

He said major peace efforts are underway and the Bangsamoro Organic Law has been enacted to help provide stability and progress in Mindanao.

“Here we see peace initiatives making major headway and unprecedented strides and yet military rule is to be extended. It looks like the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing,” Pangilinan said.

Defense and military officials, meanwhile, said they would only officially recommend whether to extend martial law after completing their assessment of the situation on the ground.

“It’s ongoing (review) and we will submit (our recommendation) first week or middle of December,” defense chief Delfin Lorenzana told reporters at Camp Aguinaldo yesterday.

Col. Noel Detoyato, AFP-Public Affairs Office  chief, said field units in Mindanao are still gathering data to determine whether there is a need for another martial law extension.

“We cannot give a categorical statement because there is no need for it right now,” Detoyato said.

But the prospect of extending martial law in Mindanao is raising jitters among some civilians, especially with the midterm elections less than seven months away.

“If martial law in Mindanao is again extended, the administration’s candidates will have an upper hand in the entire region as movements of the political opposition can always be restricted by the military and police in the guise of security and anti-terror operations,” a Mindanao resident who declined to be identified said. – with Jaime Laude

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