AT least five Cebuano legislators voted to extend martial law in Mindanao for another year as requested by President Rodrigo Duterte, while one opposed it.
Voting 240-27 in a joint session yesterday, the Senate and House of Representatives agreed to further extend martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao until Dec. 31, 2018.
Saying it violates the provisions of the Constitution, Rep. Raul del Mar (Cebu City north district) voted against the proposal.
In a letter explaining his “no” vote, which he sent to House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, del Mar lamented that before martial law can be proclaimed, the 1987 Constitution requires an actual rebellion or invasion.
“The President (Rodrigo Duterte) has ample powers to suppress any threat on public order and safety without employing the emergency measure of martial law,” he said.
He added that the conditions portrayed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) negate the call for an extended martial law.
The AFP has declared the restoration of peace and order in Mindanao and is “merely” bracing itself for the danger of the resurgence of hostilities, del Mar said. There is no more justification to extend, he said, because the conditions in Mindanao have changed.
“Martial law, despite its avowed goal, is a state of abnormalcy and uncertainty, and an interregnum of aberration as it disrupts the regular functions of governance and the lives of citizens. The end of martial law will bring back confidence of the people in their safety, give a sense of law and order again and restore normalcy in their lives,” he added.
Among those who voted yes are Reps. Gerald Anthony “Samsam” Gullas Jr. (Cebu, 1st), Benhur Salimbangon (4th), Ramon “Red” Durano III (5th), Peter Calderon (7th), and Deputy Speaker Gwen Garcia (3rd).
“Majority of the Mindanao congressmen fully supported the extension of Martial Law, and they’re the ones who have the first-hand knowledge of the peace and order in that region. So, who am I to oppose that?” Durano said.
Calderon said his yes vote is based on the fact that most, if not all congressmen from Mindanao, endorsed Duterte’s request.
“That led me to the conclusion that extending the period of Martial Law in Mindanao is not only justified but even necessary,” Calderon said. The parents of Durano and Calderon are second-degree cousins of Duterte.
For his part, Salimbangon said the reasons stated by the President are more than enough grounds to grant his request.
“This will help him fight the terrorists and rebels in Mindanao,” Salimbangon said.
Garcia said she trusts the President’s sound judgment in recommending an extension.
In a separate interview, Gullas said there are still some places there where rebellion is present.
“From what I hear from the congressmen from Mindanao, this is different from the Martial Law before. It’s Martial Law na may puso (with a heart),” Gullas added.
Lawmakers conducted nominal voting after Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III and House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas moved to further extend martial law for one year, as requested by Duterte based on the recommendations of the police and military.
On the part of the Senate, 14 voted yes while four voted no.
For the House of Representatives, 226 voted in the affirmative and 23 voted no.
There were no abstentions in both the House and the Senate.
Although congressional approval of Duterte’s request was already expected, several lawmakers still questioned the constitutionality of another extension, considering that combat operations in Marawi City have ended and there is no actual rebellion or invasion.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said an extension would be a prelude to a nationwide martial law, but Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana assured this won’t happen.
“We just want this short period of time so that we can pursue the rebellious forces there (in Mindanao),” he said.
Lorenzana agreed with Drilon that combat operations in Marawi, which were used as basis for the original 60-day proclamation of martial law on May 23, have ended.
But he said a state of rebellion still exists, although the battlefield has moved to other places in Mindanao.
“The objective of our armed forces is to end rebellion within one year,” Lorenzana said.
Duterte declared martial law in the entire Mindanao on May 23, shortly after fighting erupted between government forces and the Maute terrorist group in Marawi. Congress, acting on Duterte’s recommendation on July 22, extended this to Dec. 31, 2017.
In his Dec. 8 letter to Congress, Duterte said martial law is needed to “ensure total eradication of Daesh-inspired Da’awatul Islamiyah Waliyatul 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.”
He said remnants of the Maute group were trying to rebuild their organization by recruiting more people from Maguindanao, Sulu, Basilan and North Cotabato. (Marites Villamor-Ilano, With RTF, EOB, JKV)