January 18, 2018, 4:16 am
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Critics see no need to extend martial law

LIBERAL Party senators yesterday questioned the constitutionality of extending President Duterte’s martial law declaration in Mindanao, saying there is no actual rebellion or terrorism that necessitates it.

Security officials briefed senators on the basis for government’s proposal to extend martial law in Mindanao for one year starting January 1.

Congress is set to hold a joint session today on Duterte’s request for a one-year extension.

Duterte first declared martial law in the entire Mindanao on May 23 when the Maute terror group attacked Marawi City. He sought an extension last July, and Congress extended martial rule until December 31. Duterte’s latest request was relayed to Congress leaders through a letter sent Monday.

He said Islamist militants have been recruiting and regrouping since the Marawi conflict ended in October, and an extension is needed to ensure “total eradication” of the terror and other lawless groups. He also cited as reason for the request attacks and threats from the communist New People’s Army.

Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon said, “We take the position that there is no constitutional and legal basis to extend martial law. It has no factual basis.”

“The factual conclusion was validated during the briefing wherein security forces said that the threat is continuing, that martial law has a psychological impact on law enforcement. Unfortunately, these are not sufficient basis,” he also said.

Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino IV said the military can run after terrorist groups and lawless elements even without martial law.

“Many of us feel and believe that they can do their jobs properly with or without martial law,” he said.

He said the Constitution is clear that a martial law proclamation may be extended “for a period to be determined by the Congress, if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it.”

LP president Sen. Francis Pangilinan said there is no firefight in Marawi City to warrant another extension, unlike when Malacañang first sought an extension. 

“Ngayon, wala ng bakbakan, wala ng siege, eh ang hinihingi nila isang taon,” he said.

The Marawi conflict ended on October 23.

During the briefing, national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon said the “psychological” impact on the soldiers of a martial law extension is only one of the reasons.

He said the Mindanao people   do  not object to an extension.

“…What are we trying to do in Mindanao? Defeat terrorism, pursue the war on drugs, reforms in the local level and general reform. Number 4, shepherd the peace process. Number 5, pursue the much needed economic development. Who will disagree with that?” he said.

Asked if terrorism could not be defeated without martial law, Esperon said “time is of the essence,” noting the Islamic State, to which the Maute has declared allegiance, is not weak, and government should not give the terrorists a chance to regain strength.

Also present in the briefing were Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, AFP chief Gen. Rey Guerrero, and Interior Undersecretary Eduardo Año.

Drilon maintained that armed uprising remains an essential factor to justify a declaration of a martial law or any extension.

“And from what we heard, it’s a psychological advantage. Our security forces want teeth in enforcing the law, and the threat of a continuing rebellion, to us, is not a sufficient ground. A threat is different from an actual armed uprising,” Drilon said.

Nevertheless, Drilon admitted that the request of the President to Congress is already “a foregone conclusion.”

“Congress is a political body and the President has the super majority in both houses. It is expected that notwithstanding our reservations and opposition, Congress will authorize the extension of martial for one year in the entire Mindanao, as requested by the President,” Drilon said.

“So we will go through the motions. Ultimately the Supreme Court will have to decide on this, whether or not there is in fact a factual basis for the extension or martial in the entire Mindanao,” he added.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said he is inclined to grant the request for an extension “if only to give the military that added boost in its campaign against terrorism or against rebellion in Mindanao.”

Lacson, however, admitted that if one has to follow the Constitution strictly, the basis for an extension of martial law as explained by security officials “is lacking.”

He also said the inclusion of communist rebellion as a basis for the extension of martial law is also questionable.

He said New People’s Army is everywhere and not only in Mindanao. And for Congress to be consistent in granting the request for martial law in Mindanao, then it should also be declared in other parts of the country where the presence of the NPA could be felt

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said he is convinced there is rebellion on the ground and public safety requires an extension of martial law.
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