Congress has previously readily agreed to two previous extensions of martial law in Mindanao.
Boy Santos, file
House resolution urges six-month extension of Mindanao martial law
Ryan Macasero ( - November 19, 2018 - 9:56pm

MANILA, Philippines — A lawmaker from Iligan has filed a resolution urging President Rodrigo Duterte to extend martial law in Mindanao, saying it is needed to secure the May 2019 elections and the plebiscite on the Bangsamoro Organic Law in January.

With martial law set to expire on December 31, Rep. Frederick Siao, a member of the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms, said "it is urgently imperative that government authority must ensure [peaceful], orderly, and honest May 2019 elections in Mindanao."

In his resolution, Siao said that there have been "sporadic incidents of violence in Mindanao", citing an ambush on personnel of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in a town in Lanao del Sur in October that left five agents dead.

He added there have been initial intelligence reports from the police and military "of the presence of [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] bomb experts positioned in some areas of Mindanao plotting to generate widespread panic and terror among the police."

'Martial law until after midterm polls'

Siao said martial law should remain in place until after the midterm elections because "the masterminds and perpetrators of lawless violence either do not want the elections to happen or they [want to] prevent some candidates from getting elected into office."

"After the elected officials assume office, the martial law can end and the Philippine National Police can reassume peace and order responsibilities in Mindanao and with the civilian elected officials by their side," he also said.

Safeguarding elections are not among the justifications for martial law in the 1987 Constitution.

Resolutions express the sense, or sentiment, of the House of Representatives and are not binding.

Congress has previously readily agreed to two previous extensions of martial law, which is meant to be a temporary measure to deal with emergency situations, specifically rebellion or invasion. 

AFP: Peace in Mindanao has never been closer

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao in May 2017 in response an attack by Maute terrorists on Marawi City, the capital of Lanao del Sur.

The five-month long conflict left the city center in ruins and rehabilitation of "ground zero", also called the Most Affected Area, has yet to start, although a groundbreaking ceremony has already been held.

In a statement on the Armed Forces of the Philippines' social media accounts, Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., who has indicated that he will recommend an extension of martial law, said "peace in Mindanao has never been closer than in the times that martial law is in place."

"Despite the opposition from some groups, we have been clear from the very beginning of our intentions and our actions so far has proven them wrong," he also said.

Galvez cited the confiscation of 3,187 high-powered firearms, 2,325 low-powerfirearms; and the surrender of 10,000 New Peoples Army fighters and 174 Abu Sayyaf members as gains made under martial law.

RELATED: Military to recommend another extension of Mindanao martial law

"By next year, we aspire to bring you closer to the peace that you have always dreamt of. But we still need your help, your support, and your trust. We are all witnesses to the changes ushered in by martial law and we know we can do more. Let us continue to make our visions a reality," he also said.

The experience of martial law has not been the same across Mindanao, the Philippines' second-largest island after Luzon, although measures like curfews and "No ID, No Entry" policies are common.

Parts of Mindanao where rebel groups and terrorists operate had been militarized long before martial law was declared.

Rights groups claim to have documented cases of abuses and extrajudicial killings since the declaration in May 2017.

In September, lawmakers at the House of Representatives called for an inquiry into the deaths of seven young men in Patikul, Sulu whom the military said were Abu Sayyaf militants but a local activist group said were “husbands of Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries in Patikul who were shot” while picking fruits that they had asked for permission to harvest.

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