WITH 240 votes in the affirmative and 27 in the negative, the two chambers of Congress approved a second extension of martial law in Mindanao, this time for a full year.
Convening in a joint session on Dec. 13, the Senate voted 14-4, and the House of Representatives, 226-23, to adopt a letter early this week by President Rodrigo R. Duterte to extend martial law and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2018.
“The motion to further extend the proclamation of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is hereby approved,” House Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez said after the vote.
Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, who voted in favor of the extension, said “martial law in Mindanao is nothing like the martial law that was imposed across the entire country decades ago.” He said the Commission on Human Rights had reported no confirmed cases of human rights violation in connection with martial law in Mindanao and also cited the National Economic and Development Authority which said martial rule did not affect the regional or national economy.
“All in all, it is clear that the Duterte government has administered martial law judiciously, with great care to protect the rights of our citizens. I trust that this administration will continue to implement martial law with prudence, in pursuit of the best interests of our country,” Mr. Gatchalian said.
Senator Panfilo M. Lacson also voted for martial law’s extension, despite an earlier warning of its scope expanding nationwide.
Mr. Lacson said the extension will be a psychological boost to the soldiers, but clarified that this will not give extra powers to the military and even the President.
Senator Ana Theresia Hontiveros-Baraquel, explaining her opposition, said martial law “is not a silver bullet or a quick fix for all of our social ills. It will not bring us nearer to peace.”
Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon, for his part, said: “Is this now a prelude to declaring martial law nationwide?”
In the House, Iligan City Representative Frederick W. Siao, voting to support martial law, said, “Recovery and rehabilitation efforts for Marawi will not prosper if people’s safety is not assured and remaining pockets of terrorism are not quashed.”
For his part, House Assistant Majority Leader Michael L. Romero said: “We need a strong economic war on the root causes of the rebellion and terrorism, particularly in Mindanao.”
Dinagat Island Representative Kaka Bag-ao said of her opposition to martial law: “We need better military intelligence. We need quicker military response. We need active citizenship in our communities. We need to institute structural reforms. We need a strategic response, and not just be comfortable with the shortcuts offered by martial law and the shrinking of democratic and political rights of citizens — of Filipinos — in Mindanao.”
For his part, Senate President Aquilino Martin L. Pimentel III said it is possible that martial law will be lifted even before its extension period ends. “No one will know if [time frame] is enough. What’s important is if it’s reasonable,” Mr. Pimentel said.
Mr. Duterte, in a speech Wednesday afternoon, said, “I would like to thank the Congress for understanding the plight. Talagang mahirapan ako kung walang martial law sa Mindanao (It would be difficult for me [to maintain peace] without martial law).”
Mr. Duterte also said martial law nationwide was still possible, depending on the threat of the communist rebellion. — Minde Nyl R. dela Cruz with AFP