Duterte urges martial law extension until end of 2019

President Rodrigo Duterte takes a bow before scout ranger troopers, as he takes center stage during the awarding ceremony of 500 housing units to the personnel of the First Scout Ranger Regiment (1st SRR) at the Scout Ranger Ville in San Miguel, Bulacan on Monday, December 10. Malacañang photo by Richard Madelo

PHIlIPPINE President Rodrigo Duterte urged the two legislative chambers — the Senate and the House of Representatives — to extend martial law in Mindanao until the end of 2019.

In a letter addressed to Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III and House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo dated December 6, Duterte noted that it is still necessary to implement the military rule in the region.

“Security assessment submitted by the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and PNP (Philippine National Police) highlights certain essential facts which indicate that rebellion still persists in Mindanao and public safety requires the continuation of martial law,” Duterte said as reported by The Philippine Daily Inquirer.

According to the president, while rebels and terrorist groups “continue to defy the government by perpetrating hostile activities,” the military and the police force will continue to fight for peace to prevent the terror from reaching other parts of the Philippines.

“(The extension of martial law) will enable the AFP, the PNP and other law enforcement agencies to finally put an end to the on-going rebellion in Mindanao and continue to prevent the same from escalating in other parts of the country,” the president explained.

“We cannot afford to give the rebels any further breathing room to regroup and strengthen their forces. Public safety indubitably requires such further extension in order to avoid the further loss of lives and physical harm, not only to our soldiers and the police but also to our civilians,” he added.

Several bombings in the region specifically in Lamitan City, Basilan, Isulan, Sultan Kudarat, and in General Santos City were reported in the past few months in his request for another martial law extension.

Martial law extension: Necessary or not?

The Senate deliberated on whether or not to grant the said extension for a third time as the Senate president stated that “they were able to present some compelling reasons to really consider the extension.

However, Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino expressed his disagreement noting that the reasons were not “compelling” enough since no fighting is seen in the said region. Instead, he pushed for a “time for rehabilitation, for ensuring peace and safety and better governance.”

“Tama pa bang i-extend ang martial law kung wala na namang bakbakang nakikita (Is it right to extend martial law if there is no fighting)?” Aquino asked.

In fact, successful na eh, ‘di ba? Di ba natigil na nga natin ‘yung Maute? Napalayas na natin sila sa Marawi, kaya dapat siguro, tama na ang martial law (In fact, it was successful, right? We have stopped Maute, right? We have taken them away from Marawi. This is why martial law must stop),” he added.

Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 2017 after the Maute brothers laid siege to Marawi City. They waged a five-month war against the government, causing casualties on both sides, driving residents away from their homes, and destroying infrastructure, some of the historic landmarks.

Under the Constitution, martial law can only be imposed for a maximum of 60 days. But before it expired in July 2017, Duterte asked Congress for its extension until December 2017.

Even after the war, Duterte requested a second extension of martial law until the end of 2018, citing continuing terror threats. The president again requested that martial law in the region be extended until December 31, 2018, citing the continuous insurgency of the New People’s Army in the region.

A joint hearing of the Senate and House of Representatives is set on Wednesday, December 12.

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