OPPOSITION lawmakers objected Wednesday, December 12, to recommendations to extend martial law in Mindanao, saying there was no actual rebellion in the south that would justify the extension.
The Congress voted Wednesday afternoon to extend for the third time the martial law declaration in the south until December 31, 2019.
But Senator Franklin Drilon pointed out that the Supreme Court, in its recent decision in the petition of Albay Representative Edcel Lagman against the martial law declaration and its implementers, ruled that for it to be imposed, there should be an actual rebellion.
He said there is nothing in the grounds cited by President Rodrigo Duterte that shows actual uprising or actual rebellion to justify the extension of martial law.
"None exists at this point to justify the declaration of martial law," Drilon said.
Senator Chiz Escudero, during his interpellation, also said that the grounds listed in Duterte's request do not constitute the further extension of the martial rule.
Duterte, in his letter to Congress, said that rebels and remnants of terror groups like the Abu Sayyaf, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and Daulah Islamiyah, among others, have continued to perpetrate hostile activities in Mindanao.
He also cited as grounds for martial law extension the recent bombing incidents in Basilan, Sultan Kudarat, and General Santos City that killed a number of people.
But Escudero said the grounds cited by the President are not the basis for martial rule declaration.
"Ang binabanggit po lamang ay pagsalakay o invasion o rebellion, hindi po pagpapanatili ng peace and order, hindi po pagapaganda ng ekonomiya at hindi dahil gusto ng tao. Ang kinakailangan meron rebellion," he added.
(What was mentioned as basis for martial law declaration is invasion or rebellion, not to maintain peace and order, not to improve the economy, and not because the people want it. There must be rebellion.)
Section 18, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution stated that the President, as commander-in-chief, has three powers: (1) call out the armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion; (2) suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus; (3) or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it.
Also under the Constitution, martial law can be declared for a period not exceeding 60 days. But since martial law was declared in Mindanao in May 2017, Wednesday's decision was the third extension granted by the 17th Congress to Duterte.
Senator Francis Pangilinan said he could not understand how two years can be defined as a limited period.
"Martial law is an extraordinary measure imposed only for a limited period...The actual rebellion was taking place in Marawi, it should be limited there and only for a limited period," he said.
Escudero pointed out that there is no need to impose martial law, as what law enforcers can do with martial law, they still can do even without it.
"This cannot be the new normal for Mindanao...Mindanao achieved economic growth. Mindanao achieved unprecedented maintenance of peace in their area and it can do so even without martial law," he said.
Senator Risa Hontiversos, for her part, said she is disturbed by the fact that the military has been taking over the civilian functions of the local government to police and ensure discipline.
"May I know exactly and factually what civilian functions have been taken over by the military?... Dahil daw sa martial law ang mga LGU (local government unit) natin sa Mindanao ay nag-totow the line at naeempower na mag-gobyerno at nadadagdagan daw ang nabibigyan ng seal of good local governance sa Armm (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) dahil din daw sa martial law. Ito na po ba nag trabaho ng AFP ngayon?" she said.
National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana in response said the military is not taking away any civilian functions of the local government.
"Wala po kaming kinukuhang functions from the civilians... They can function normally during martial law. If they want to institute curfew, they can do it. Hindi kami nag-iimpose sa kanila, kaya lang ang military and police may checkpoints to police those na nagdadala ng baril," he said.
Martial law in Mindanao was declared on May 23, 2017 after clashes between the Maute terror group and government forces broke out in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.
The Marawi siege, which lasted for five months has killed more than 1,000 people. (With LMY/SunStar Philippines)