By Camille A. Aguinaldo, Reporter
PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte requested Congress to approve another full-year extension of martial law in Mindanao, Malacañang said on Friday.
In a statement, presidential spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo confirmed reports that Mr. Duterte has talked to Congress leaders on the martial-law extension and suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao.
“The request to extend martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao has already been communicated by the President to the leadership of both Houses of Congress,” Mr. Panelo said.
“While it is now up to Congress to decide on whether this initiative by the President is justified or not, we are positive that it will share our views as ours are purely intended for the general welfare of our brothers and sisters in Mindanao,” he added.
Mr. Panelo said “rebellion still persists” in the region, which compelled Mr. Duterte to ask for another year of martial law despite the progress made by security forces in the peace and order situation in Mindanao.
“A halt may only frustrate the progress we are witnessing in Mindanao and may even strengthen the rebellion and propel it to other parts of the country,” he said.
Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III also said Mr. Duterte has told him that he might call on Congress to convene in a joint session next week. Senators will hold a security briefing with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday, the Senate leader added.
“Monday morning we have briefing a briefing from AFP. I’m still waiting for the President’s letter re(garding the) joint session. He sent me a message saying he might call for it on Wednesday, Dec 12. But nothing is concrete until I receive his letter,” Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III told reporters in a mobile phone message.
But Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel F. Zubiri raised concerns that a joint session may delay the passage of the proposed national budget for 2019.
“Well, that would delay the budget schedule….We will have to travel. Of course we will have to go to the House of Representatives for the joint session. And because of that, this will delay the passage of the budget on Wednesday.
In his speech during a forum on Friday, Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana mentioned that the declaration of martial law in Mindanao has allowed for better coordination between the security forces and local government agencies in dealing with “threat personalities” in the region.
He said martial law is also a necessary component in the ongoing rehabilitation of Marawi City.
Mr. Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao in May 2017 after government forces clashed with the terrorist Maute group in Marawi City. Congress later granted the President’s request for an extension of martial law in Mindanao until December 2018.
The AFP and Philippine National Police (PNP) recently signed a document recommending to the President to extend martial law in Mindanao in 2019.