House to approve martial law  extension; Senate divided
Various groups from Mindanao picket Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City yesterday to call for the lifting of martial law in Mindanao.
Michael Varcas

House to approve martial law extension; Senate divided

Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) - December 5, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives will approve a request from President Duterte to again extend martial law in Mindanao.

“If the President will ask for it, then chances are it shall be given. The concurrence will be expedited if the military and the police will renew their commitment to respect the constitutional rights of every individual in the territory covered by the declaration,” Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. said yesterday.

“The inputs and views of congressmen from Mindanao, who represent the people directly affected, will carry much weight during the deliberations,” Andaya said.

Senators, however, are divided on the proposal to extend martial law for another year.

Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito said he was in favor of extending martial law as it limited the movement of private armies and has somehow addressed the proliferation of loose firearms in Mindanao.

Sen. Sonny Angara said he was open to the proposal but sought an extensive briefing from security officials before making a firm decision on the matter.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon thumbed down the plan, saying a second extension of martial law is unconstitutional. “There is no basis for a second extension of martial law as there was no ground that necessitated the first extension,” Drilon said.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan said the military should justify its request for martial law extension with “hard and justifiable facts.”

Pangilinan also warned the country is heading toward the midterm elections in May next year, and the extension could be used to harass opposition candidates in Mindanao.

The lawmakers were commenting on reports that the military and the police were recommending the extension of martial law in Mindanao for another year.

President Duterte is reportedly considering the recommendation. 

He declared martial law in the south in early 2017. Congress first extended his declaration up to the end of last year and then up to the end of this year.

Duterte on Monday said Mindanao remains a troubled land, which is why martial law must be extended for another year.

“We are facing a revolutionary front, one that is motivated by territorial, land and the other is driven by the extremist, the ISIS (Islamic State). And it is still in Mindanao, it remains to be a troubled land for everybody. And Mindanao will always be a pain in the… government,” the President said.

No legal basis

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said a third request from Duterte for a third martial law extension would “mock the Constitution for wanton absence of constitutional bases which are the presence of actual rebellion and public safety requires the extension.”?“Rebellion does not persist in Mindanao and consequently public safety is not imperiled,” he said.

Lagman said both Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., chief of the Armed Forces, and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had not formally recommended to the President any extension. 

“Galvez and Lorenzana are foot-dragging in recommending another martial law extension because it appears that it is not of critical immediacy and another extension is an admission that the military has failed to achieve the purported objectives of the previous martial law extensions,” Lagman told a news conference. ?He said Galvez’s justification that “there is public clamor for the extension is flawed because popular clamor is not a ground for martial law or its extension.”?“Moreover, the alibi that ‘terrorists are still lurking in the area’ is not also a basis for extension because terrorism is not rebellion and the threat of terrorism, like the imminent threat of rebellion, is not a constitutional ground for martial law or its extension,” Lagman explained.

He said the old ground of “imminent threat of rebellion” has been removed in the 1987 Constitution because “threat is contingent, self-serving and nebulous.” 

Lagman announced that he and his colleagues would question before the Supreme Court a third extension of martial law in Mindanao.

The congressmen challenged the President’s martial law declaration, but the high court upheld Duterte’s proclamation.

Former solicitor general Florin Hilbay said the proposal to extend martial law for another year is getting to be a habit.

“Let’s not normalize martial law,” Hilbay said on his Twitter account.

“This is patently unconstitutional since there’s no invasion or rebellion at the moment. So what reason will they give this time to justify their request?” he said.

Militant groups held a protest rally in front of Camp Aguinaldo, accusing the military of abuses against lumad people and workers’ groups in the region during martial law implementation.

Lorenzana, for his part, said they are checking out reports that would justify the extension of martial law in Mindanao.  –  With Paolo Romero, Michael Punongbayan, Rhodina Villanueva, Helen Flores, Edith Regalado

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