Manila, Philippines — The 17th Congress approved on Wednesday President Rodrigo Duterte’s request for the extension of martial in Mindanao for another year up to the end of 2019.
Twelve senators voted in favor of the joint resolution that sought to extend martial law in Mindanao and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. Only minority Sens. Franklin Drilon, Francis Pangilinan, Bam Aquino, Risa Hontiveros and Francis Escudero voted against, while Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto abstained in the voting.
Two hundred twenty-three representatives from the lower house voted in affirmative, while 23 voted in negative.
In all, 235 members of Congress voted to approve the extension while 28 voted against and only one abstained.
This is the third extension granted to the president. Toward the latter part of 2017, Duterte asked Congress to lengthen his martial law declaration in May by six months. Before the previous year ended, he appealed for a one-year extension up to the end of this year.
In a letter submitted to the two houses, the chief executive said that security assessment by the police and military indicated that rebellion still persists in Mindanao.
Duterte noted that the Abu Sayyaf Group, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Daulah Islamiyah and other terrorist groups continue to perpetuate threat in the entire region. He also mentioned communist groups, which he said, pose serious security concerns.
During the joint session of Congress, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea claimed that Mindanao remains to be “in the midst of rebellion” and that the whole island is a “hotbed of communist insurgency in the country.”
“We cannot afford to show enemies a moment of weakness in our resolve to defeat them. We cannot falter or else we lose our progress,” Medialdea said.
The chief executive declared martial law in Mindanao following the breakout of Marawi siege in May 2017.
Martial law an ‘extraordinary measure’
A handful of lawmakers opposed another extension of martial law in the entire island, stressing there is no ground that necessitates such move.
Drilon, Senate minority leader, stressed out there is no “actual rebellion or armed uprising” in the entire island. The Constitution is clear that martial law may be declared only in cases of actual rebellion when public safety requires it.
He then urged his colleagues not to normalize the declaration of martial law.
“Martial law is the highest form of self-preservation, it cannot be the norm. We cannot make martial law as an instrument to make governance more effective. That was never the intention of our framers,” Drilon said.
Pangilinan also said that the prolonged extension of martial law in Mindanao is in violation of the constitution.
“We reiterate that martial law under the 1987 Constitution is an extraordinary measure imposed only under the extreme situation of rebellion or actual invasion and only for a limited period… We cannot understand how two years is defined as a limited period,” he said.
The opposition lawmaker added: “Prolonged martial law in a large area affecting the lives of millions of our citizens is authoritarian and contrary to the constitutional democracy. Worse, it will not improve the economic welfare of our citizens.”