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SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau

Congress overwhelmingly approves Mindanao Martial Law extension
23 July 2017 09:18:32 AM

Voting 261-18, the House of Representatives and the Senate, in a Special Joint Session on Saturday, overwhelmingly approved President Rodrigo Duterte’s request to extend martial law in Mindanao until December 31, 2017.

The House and the Senate voted separately on Resolution of Both Houses 10 which called for the extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus until the end of the year.

Out of the 259 House Members present, 245 voted in favor while 14 voted against the Martial Law extension. Of the 20 senators present, 16 voted in the affirmative while four were against the extension.

Rep. Frederick Siao (Lone District, Iligan City) said an overwhelming majority of residents in Iligan City support the extension of martial law in Mindanao until the end of the year.

He said Iligan City serves as a temporary home to majority of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Marawi City.

“Today, investment in Iligan is at standstill. Investors have stalled their entry. We feel that the extension of martial law will be to our advantage,” said Siao.

“Many do not realize that there is a synergy between my city and Marawi. What happens to them greatly affects us since we are only 30 minutes away from them. If Marawi has been caught flatfooted with this incident, so are we in Iligan. We do not know when the siege will end. We do not know which city will be the target of these terrorist groups,” stressed Siao.

Siao added: “We trust our President that he will yield its (martial law’s) power for its judicious use and for the greater interest of our people,” Siao said.

Rep. Raul del Mar (1st District, Cebu City), who also voted for the martial law extension, said that reports submitted by the executive department, military officials, and media clearly indicate the existence of sufficient basis for the extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao.

“Martial Law is still vitally needed to quell terrorism in Marawi City. If we don’t act fast, terrorism might spread in the entire Mindanao, and God forbid, even in the Visayas and Luzon,” Del Mar said.

Del Mar urged Members of Congress to continue to be vigilant to prevent human rights violations in Marawi City and in Mindanao.

Rep. Oscar Garin Jr. (1st District, Iloilo) said he voted ‘Yes’ to the extension because the government should be given a free hand in restoring peace and order in Marawi City.

“In these times, individual convenience must give way to the collective good,” Garin said.

Rep. Vincent Crisologo (1st District, Quezon City) said he voted for the extension of martial law because he did not want the rebellion to spread in Manila.

“I believe that the President, with all his intelligence resources, sees that there’s a need for the extension of martial law,” said Crisologo.

On the other hand, Rep. Edcel Lagman (1stDistrict, Albay) said he voted ‘No’ because there is ‘’no sufficient factual basis for any extension, in the same manner that there was no adequate factual anchorage for the declaration of martial law under Proclamation No. 286.’’

Lagman explained that what is happening in Marawi City is “a lawless violence amounting to terrorism but not actual rebellion. He further said “the President and his subalterns failed to sufficiently show that the element of culpable political purpose of the terrorists exist.”

“The coverage of martial law cannot be extrapolated in the whole of Mindanao where there is no actual rebellion as admitted by no less than the Martial Law Administrator, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana,” said Lagman.

Lagman requested the leaderships of the House of Representatives and the Senate to require the Secretary of National Defense as Administrator of Martial Law and the AFP Chief of Staff as Implementor of martial law to submit to the House and to the Senate the official copy of the recommendation made by them to the President for the extension of martial law.

Rep. Jose Christopher Belmonte (6th District, Quezon City) said although he sees the need to provide further support for the military and the police, he does not agree to the extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus over the whole Mindanao.

“To do so would normalize the environment of military rule which is reserved only for the most extraordinary times. To do so might set a dangerous precedent of normalizing authoritarianism. To do so may have effect of destroying the very institutions we have sworn to uphold,” Belmonte said.

“By resorting to this extraordinary solution of martial law, aren’t we falling into the trap created to us by terrorists, the trap na gusto nilang mahulog tayo? How many communities will we transform into war zones? How many children will have fallen back from their education? How many families will have been displaced and forced away from their homes? How will the Mindanao culture and heritage be affected? How many more recruits are we making for the extremists and the terrorists?,” said Belmonte.

Rep. Celso Lobregat (1st District, Zamboanga City) appealed to his colleagues to support the extension of martial law.

“If the extension of martial law will lessen even one day the war in Marawi, if the extension of martial law in Mindanao until December 31 will lessen the suffering of civilians of even one less day and even if the extension of martial law will save one more life, let us give the President, the authorities, the police and the military the chance to do so,” Lobregat said during the interpellation period.

Lobregat said that had martial been declared during the Zamboanag siege, “the suffering, the loss of lives, the loss of properties in Zamboanga would have been less.”

Deputy Speaker Bai Sandra Sema (1st District, Maguindanao) likewise declared her support for the extension of martial law.

“Noon pong kailangan ang martial law, kami po ay sumuporta at ngayon na bibigyan ng extension ang martial law, kami rin po ay sumusuporta dahil alam po namin na ang laban na ito ay laban sa extremism. Ang violent extremism po na ito ay hindi ang narrative ng Mindanao. Ito po ay bagong ideology at hindo po kami sumusuporta dito,” said Sema.

In the Senate, Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri said the extension of martial law is necessary as the threat is still present.

“It is still ever present. And once Marawi is free from these terrorists, the harder part of rehabilitating and rebuilding will begin. The builders could be under constant threat by bombings and firefights similar to what had happened in Iraq and in Afghanistan where these contractors were always bombarded, killed and kidnapped. We must protect these areas for this type of terrorism,” Zubiri said.

Sen. Richard Gordon said extending martial law is about containment, saying “we have to contain the malady. We don’t want it to spread anymore in any part of our country.”

“It is important to realize that as we vote today, we can always, under the Constitution, to withdraw support for martial law. We can, in 60 days, always ask the President for justification… and even he can withdraw martial law if he feels there is no more justification,” Gordon explained.

Gordon said : The reality is, we don’t want to be a Syria, we don’t want to be an Iraq. It started with little things like these and then spread out and created destruction, havoc, and death, and destroyed nations.”

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian explained that there is a necessity to continue the implementation of martial law until December 31, 2017 to achieve the paramount objective of restoring peace under a civilian authority.

“Allowing our government to exercise this extraordinary but limited power now is a small sacrifice compared to the dire economic and security consequences of allowing extremism to take seed and spread throughout the country,” Gatchalian said.

Gatchalian urged everyone to trust that with sufficient time and latitude, the administration will only do what is necessary and just to secure a prosperous and safe future for our country.

Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara said the deliberations by the Senate and the House of Representatives boil down to peace and freedom, which the Filipino soldiers and policemen are fighting and risking their lives for.

“Habang tayo’y nagdedebate dito, ibinubuwis po ng mga kasundaluhan at kapulisan ang kanilang buhay para ipagtanggol yung ating karapatan para magdebate dito. Yun po ang nakasalalay sa usapin ngayon, yun pong kalayaan natin…Suklian po natin yung ating kasundaluhan ng konting suporta at saklolo,” said Angara.

Sentor Bam Aquino said that he favors extending martial law but only for 60 days.

“Humingi po ako sa extension ng 150 days dahil sa tingin ko po ang nararapat na extension ay 60 days lamang. Ang 60-day limitation ba ay makakatulong sa pagtaguyod ng demokrasya sa ating bansa. Oo. Tinataguyod po ang check and balance ng co-equal branches of government ng executive and legislative branches. Pangalawa, Congress will be able to fulfil its mandate and responsibility given to it by the Constitution in shorter intervals,” Aquino said.

Aquino said the presence of martial law in the country today puts democracy in an unusual and unstable situation. “Ngayon po na may martial law tayo, di po ganun katibay ang kinatatayuan ng ating demokrasya. Kaya po ang ating pagpapasyang kailangang gawin natin, tayo po ba ay magpapalakas ng ating demokrasya o tayo po ba ay gagawa ng mga desisyon na posibleng makakapagpahina dito? Siyempre po, boboto tayo sa pagpapalakas ng ating demokrasya,” Aquino said.

Last July 18, President Duterte wrote Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, calling upon the Congress to extend the martial law proclamation and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao.

The President said despite the progress and significant strides that the government has achieved against the Da’watul Islamiyah Wallyatul Masriq (DIWM) and its sympathizers, the rebellion persists and a lot more remains to be done to completely quell the same and bring back public order and safety in Mindanao.

“For all of these reasons, and as public safety clearly requires it, the proclamation of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao need to be extended until December 31, 2017 or for such period of time as the Congress may determine. I request the continued support of both Houses of Congress to achieve our common goal of protecting and preserving the integrity of our Republic,” wrote the President. / ABR/MVIP