EDITORIAL - One more year of martial law
(The Philippine Star) - December 13, 2018 - 12:00am

With the two chambers of Congress voting jointly, it was not surprising that the request of Malacañang for yet another yearlong extension of martial law was approved overwhelmingly by the legislature, with the super majority in the House of Representatives leading the affirmation.

The Constitution allows the President to place the country or any part of it under martial law and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus “in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it.” That situation arose when Maute and Abu Sayyaf terrorists inspired by the Islamic State laid siege to Marawi City last year.

After Marawi was liberated by government forces, did the Mautes still pose such a threat in Mindanao? Congress believed so. Empowered by the Constitution to prolong martial law “for a period to be determined by the Congress, if the invasion or rebellion persists or public safety requires it,” the legislature approved in December last year Malacañang’s request to extend martial law for an entire year all over Mindanao.

With that one year about to end, Congress approved yet another yearlong extension yesterday. This time, however, the government is invoking the rebellion being waged by communist rebels as a key reason for the extension. Opponents of the move inevitably posed the question: the communist rebellion has been going on for decades, with no resolution in sight. Will martial law be in place for many more years?

Martial law must be imposed only during periods when the country faces extraordinary security threats. This was clear in Marawi. But the leaders of that siege have been killed and their relatives placed behind bars. What is the security emergency in Mindanao? At the end of yet another year of martial law, what is the objective that is supposed to be attained?

One senator stressed that martial law cannot be the new normal in Mindanao. Another expressed fears that military muscle might be used to influence the elections in May. The government cannot simply brush aside such concerns. Other countries make an effort to show the world normalcy in all aspects. The government must give reassurance that the Philippines is not going in the other direction.

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