Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and members of the two chambers of Congress stand during the start of yesterday’s joint session discussing the extension of martial law in Mindanao.
Michael Varcas
Congress OKs 1 more year of martial law
Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) - December 13, 2018 - 12:00am

Palace: Civil rights won’t be violated

MANILA, Philippines — Voting jointly, the two chambers of Congress yesterday overwhelmingly approved President Duterte’s request for the extension of martial law in Mindanao by another year, up to the end of 2019.

The House of Representatives voted 223-23 to give its consent to the extension, while the Senate voted 12-5 with Sen. Ralph Recto abstaining. Thus, the combined vote was 235 for, and 28 against the extension.

Under the Constitution, the two chambers must vote jointly on martial law.

Approval of the President’s request capped more than four hours of debates in a joint session presided over by Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. presented the motion to give congressional consent to martial law extension, with his Senate counterpart Juan Miguel Zubiri seconding it.

After hearing the explanations of officials of the administration, Andaya said the military, with the police and the lawmakers, “believes that there is continuing rebellion in Mindanao, which necessitates the further extension of martial law.”

As expected, administration allies voted to support Duterte’s request, while opposition and leftist lawmakers opposed it.

Lanao del Norte Rep. Khalid Dimaporo thanked martial law administrator Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and the military “for your accomplishments.”

“Your most notable achievement is in the campaign against loose firearms. You have succeeded where the police has failed,” he said.

Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat said he supported the presidential request because the takeover by the Moro National Liberation Front of parts of his city in September 2013 “would not have happened if there was martial law.”

Dimaporo and Lobregat said they hoped government forces would also disarm Muslim secessionist groups, including the dominant Moro Islamic Liberation Front. 

Rep. Michael Romero of party-list 1-Pacman said, “Prevention is always better than the cure. Extending martial law is actual prevention of bandits, terrorists and lawless groups to even think of creating a repeat of the Marawi siege.”

Due to the prevailing peace in Mindanao, businesses thrive, resulting in more employment opportunities, Romero said.

“In fact, the unemployment rate in all regions in the island ranges only from 3.1 percent to four percent, much lower than the national average of six percent,” he said.

Another Mindanao lawmaker who supported martial law extension is Davao del Norte Rep. Antonio Floirendo Jr.

He said the extension would “ensure the growth of our communities, including our industries, especially now that we are making headway in the ‘Build, Build, Build’ program in Mindanao.”

“The deterioration of peace and order brought about by lawless elements… hampers the growth of the region,” Floirendo said.

Deputy speaker and Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu said the continuation of martial rule “is in accordance with the Constitution and I believe that the President has considered all information before asking for such extension.”

Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte said based on the assessment of the military and the national police, the people of Mindanao “want martial law to continue.”

“They have responded favorably to its implementation and the way that the military and police have handled it with utmost respect for the human rights of the people they are tasked to protect,” he said.

Villafuerte noted that no less than Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has declared that there is nothing illegal in the Duterte administration’s plan to extend martial law in Mindanao as long as the grounds for it continue to exist. 

Carpio cited the Supreme Court’s decision in July last year that upheld the constitutionality of the martial law declaration of Duterte and also the ruling last February that affirmed the one-year extension of the proclamation until the end of this year.

In upholding Proclamation 216, the high court held that the necessary requisites for declaration of martial law were present in Mindanao, particularly the existence of a “real and present rebellion that threatens the lives of our fellow Filipinos in Mindanao and their much-cherished liberties.”

The SC likewise allowed the one-year extension of the proclamation, saying the factual bases for martial law declaration still existed as proven by evidence submitted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The Court also ruled that it has no power to review the decision of Congress to grant the request of the President for the one-year extension.

The SC explained that it could only step in once there is clear showing of arbitrary and improvident use of power by Congress under Article VII, Section 18 of the 1987 Constitution, which it said was lacking.

It also rejected the argument of petitioners that the extension should have only been limited to 60 days, saying the Constitution does not set a limit to the number of times Congress can extend martial law declaration by the President.  

Still subsisting

At the start of the joint House-Senate session, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea read the President’s letter-request for prolonging martial rule.

Medialdea said rebellion in Mindanao “still subsists” despite the gains of government forces in fighting terrorist groups in the region.

“We cannot afford to show our enemies even a moment of weakness to defeat them. The extension of martial law will put a decisive end to rebellion in Mindanao,” he said.

Malacañang welcomed the approval of Congress of the extension of martial law in Mindanao.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said it was a “positive development.”

“We thank our lawmakers for sharing the executive’s view that the extension is purely intended for the general welfare and wellbeing of the people of Mindanao,” Panelo said.

“Rest assured that the fundamental rights and liberties of our citizens shall at all times be respected and that our uniformed services shall act strictly within the confines of their mandate,” he added.

Panelo maintained public safety demands decisive action from the President, whose primordial mandate is to protect and serve the people.

“Further, it is our shared responsibility to ensure the integrity of our nation, the security of our people and the sustained growth and development of Mindanao,” Panelo said.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the extension of martial law in Mindanao was justified.

“We have no reason to doubt the truthfulness of the reports of our Armed Forces on the continued existence of rebellion and the requirement of public safety in Mindanao. For as long as the factual basis subsists, the DOJ supports the further extension of martial law in Mindanao,” he said.

Guevarra said any extension of martial law in Mindanao would depend on the continued existence of the basis of why it was proclaimed in the first place.

“Any further extension of martial law will depend on the continued existence of the factual basis for its proclamation, actual rebellion or invasion,” he said.

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Oscar Albayalde said the extension of martial law in Mindanao will contain the movement of extremists and rebel groups.

Albayalde said the people of Mindanao would be assured of another full year of peace and security amid the threat of terror groups and communist insurgents in the region.

Albayalde gave assurance of strict observance of police operations in the implementation of military rule in Mindanao.

The new AFP chief Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal vowed stricter implementation of martial law “to prevent another Marawi,” referring to the five-month bloody siege of Marawi City by Islamic terrorists two years ago.

Madrigal’s predecessor, retired Gen. Carlito Galvez, and Lorenzana recommended to the President the extension of martial law in Mindanao for another year. –  With Christina Mendez, Edith Regalado, Jaime Laude, Edu Punay, Emmanuel Tupas

 

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