CONGRESS HAS set Wednesday, Dec. 13, for a joint session on President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s request to extend anew martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao.

Following Mr. Duterte’s transmittal on Monday of his letter to that purpose, Senate President Aquilino Martin L. Pimentel III and House Majority Leader Rodolfo C. Fariñas both confirmed to the media the scheduled joint session on Wednesday.

Mr. Pimentel also disclosed that the Senate will be briefed on Tuesday by the martial law administrator, Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana, as well as by other agencies, including the National Economic and Development Authority, “para may economic angle naman kami and human rights angle,” he said. (So we can have an economic angle and a human rights angle.)

Congressional sessions are set to end this Friday, Dec. 15, but Mr. Pimentel said Congress will be at work “hanggang Wednesday lang (only until Wednesday).”

“Ang mga bicam kasi ano na lang yan, yes or no. Ang bicam reports (The bicam reports are just a matter of yes or no),” the Senate leader said, referring to the stage where the national budget next year and the crucial tax reform program of the Duterte administration remain pending.

Mr. Duterte, in his letter on Monday to Mr. Pimentel and House Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez, said in part: “I ask the Congress of the Philippines to further extend the proclamation of Martial Law and the suspension of the privilege of writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao for a period of one (1) year, from 01 January 2018 to 31 December 2018, or for such period of time as the Congress may determine, in accordance with Section 18, Article VII of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.”

The letter seeking martial law’s second extension was sent 20 days before the current extension expires on Dec. 31.

On May 23, Mr. Duterte declared martial law in the entire Mindanao for a period of 60 days, as the Maute group started its siege of Marawi City. After the 60-day limit of martial law, Congress extended it upon Mr. Duterte’s request until Dec. 31.

Under Article VII, Section 18 of the Constitution, the President, as Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, can either revoke or extend the declaration of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of writ of habeas corpus, as can be determined by Congress through a joint session.

On Dec. 4, Mr. Lorenzana formally wrote Mr. Duterte asking him to extend martial law in the whole southernmost region of Mindanao, “primarily to ensure total eradication of DAESH-Inspired Da’awatul Islamiyah Waiyatul Masriq (DIWM), other like-minded Local/Foreign Terrorist Groups (L/FTGs) and Armed Lawless Groups (ALGs), and the communist terrorists (CTs) and their coddlers, supporters, and financiers.”

Mr. Duterte also cited concerns following attacks by remnant forces of terrorist leaders Isnilon Hapilon and the Maute brothers, and of the DIWM, Turaifie Group, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Abu Sayyaf Group, and New People’s Army.

“A further extension of the implementation of Martial Law and suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao will help the AFP, the Philippine National Police (PNP), and all other law enforcement agencies to quell completely and put an end to the on-going rebellion in Mindanao and prevent the same from escalating to other parts of the country,” the President said in his letter, adding:

“Public safety indubitably requires such further extension, not only for the sake of security and public order, but more importantly to enable the government and the people of Mindanao to pursue the bigger task of rehabilitation and the promotion of a stable socio-economic growth and development.”

In his press briefing on Monday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque said: “We are hopeful that Congress would see the need for further extension of martial law as explained in PRRD’s official communication to finally put an end to the ongoing rebellion in Mindanao. Public safety after all is our primordial concern. We must unite against these evil forces.”

“We need to ensure that they no longer present a threat that all acts of rebellion emanating from them had ceased. And that they are not in a position to endanger public security,” he added.

In Davao City, business leaders expressed support for the extension of martial law in Mindanao.

Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. President Ronald C. Go said: “Our President is unlike those in the past who perceived the threats in Mindanao as just a petty disturbance that could be taken care of with a little money. They tried to use band and fixes for wounds which were long infected.”

“Other Asian nations became progressive once the elements which sought to sow divisions among them were dealt with decisively. We need to band together to quell any movement that seeks to divide us as a nation,” he added.

For his part, Mr. Antonio Peralta, chairman of the Southern Mindanao Business Council and a member of the European Chamber of Commerce, said: “We should always think if we are part of the solution or part of the problem?” — with Rosemarie A. Zamora and Minde Nyl R. dela Cruz and a report by Maya M. Padillo