January 18, 2018, 4:13 am
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Antis lament ML extension as ‘new normal’

LAWMAKERS opposed to the extension of martial law in Mindanao yesterday insisted that martial rule is illegal if there is no rebellion or invasion.

At a joint session of Congress, the 240 out of 267 lawmakers agreed with President Duterte on the need for tough measures to stop Muslim militants recruiting fighters and preparing a new wave of attacks after occupying Marawi City for five months this year.

Minority lawmakers said the extension of martial law was illegal because Duterte had cited security threats, rather than rebellion or invasion, the conditions under which martial law can be invoked.

Rep. Tom Villarin of the Akbayan party-list group said martial law would cost a huge amount of money, calling broad support for it a “death blow to our democracy.”

“We have made martial law the new normal, absent of any proof of invasion or rebellion,” he said. “Martial law now desensitizes the people to wrongly equate it with good governance and democracy.”

Duterte’s opponents lament his authoritarian streak and speculate that his end game is to emulate former president Ferdinand Marcos by declaring martial law nationwide, as he has often threatened.

Asked several times on Wednesday if he was prepared to go that far, he said, “It depends on the enemies of the state.”

Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon, one of four senators who voted against the extension, insisted that the existence of rebellion as a constitutional basis for the declaration of martial law should be characterized by actual armed conflict. He warned that another extension can be a “prelude to declaring martial law nationwide.”

“The NPA (New People’s Army) conflict has been there for the last four decades. Suddenly, the NPA is cited as an additional group for martial law extension in Mindanao,” he said.

The three others were Senators Francis Pangilinan, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, and Risa Hontiveros.

Rep. Lito Atienza (PL, Buhay), a member of the minority bloc, said that since the Constitution allows initial declaration of martial law for a maximum period of only 60 days, any extension longer than this period is unconstitutional.

Rep. Edcel Lagman (LP, Albay), a leader of the opposition bloc, said the extension “has no factual anchorage and constitutional basis.”

“Aside from the cavalier assertion of the military and police authorities that there is a ‘continuing rebellion’ in Mindanao, there is no well-documented support for such contrived submission,” he said.

Lagman said the threats of terrorism and violence in Mindanao “do not constitute a constitutional ground for extension of martial law because imminent danger has been deleted by the 1987 Constitution as a ground for the declaration of martial law and its authorized extension.”

He said any further extension of martial law is unconstitutional because such extension of an extension is not allowed under the Constitution because what is authorized is only the extension of the original proclamation.

“Moreover, a series of extensions would defy the clear intent of the Constitution for a limited period of martial law and its extension, wherein the initiatory proclamation should not even exceed 60 days. Any extension is subject to the same constitutional constraints on the limited period,” he said.

The National Union of People’s Lawyers said the extension of martial in Mindanao “seems to be part of a grand design or intent to eventually place the entire country under virtual military rule and completely transform the nation into a police state.”

The group is headed by Edre Olalia who is also the legal counsel of the communist National Democratic Front of the Philippines. President Duterte terminated the peace talks with the communists on November 23 due to   NPA attacks.

“Despite dubious presentations by the martial rulers that attempt to justify the extension, there is objectively no sufficient factual basis which public safety requires,” the group said in a statement.

“There is no actual and real -- not threatened or predicted -- rebellion in the entire Mindanao of such intensity and scope as to honestly satisfy the strict extraordinary constitutional powers,” it added.

NPA FACTOR

Hontiveros also questioned the inclusion of the NPA in Duterte’s request for martial law extension, saying Armed Forces has declared it a “spent force.”

“Why use the NPA as the reason for extending martial law?” Hontiveros asked, saying such move or any move to repress civil liberties might strengthen rebel recruitment.

But even without the NPA as justification to the extension of martial law, Drilon and Hontiveros said other reasons cited in the request letter “do not meet the basic requirements of the Constitution.”

Aquino said he voted against the extension because of the absence of an actual rebellion.

“One year seems unreasonable. It is akin to being indefinite as there are no clear milestones to reach and no distinct reasons for needing an entire year,” he also said.

Pangilinan said the “threat” that terrorists and rebels pose “is not a basis for an extension of military rule in Mindanao.”
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