Solons, groups give mixed reactions on martial law extension

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 14) — The extension of martial law in Mindanao for another year drew mixed reactions from lawmakers who voted for and against the measure.

With an overwhelming vote of 240-27, the joint session of Congress on Tuesday agreed to extend martial law in Mindanao until December 31, 2018.

Some members of Congress said Mindanaoans feel safe with the imposition of martial law in the region, while a handful of lawmakers opposed the extension, saying it has no basis in the Constitution. Others are set to question the martial law extension before the Supreme Court.

Martial law in Mindanao was supposed to end on December 31, 2017. This was based on the first extension requested by the President when the initial declaration lapsed on July 23. Congress then extended it to July 22 to December 31.

Martial rule was implemented in response to the terrorist attack in Marawi City. The siege lasted for five months.

On December 10, Duterte submitted a letter of request for an extension of one more year. He said martial law is needed to respond to attacks by local and foreign terrorist groups, as well as the "intensified" rebellion of the New People's Army (NPA), the armed wing of the communist organization which has waged a 48-year-old insurgency.

Opposing the measure

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who has constantly rallied against martial law in Mindanao, said another extension would be unconstitutional, now that there is no "actual rebellion or public uprising" anywhere in the country.

"There are only threats at this point," said Drilon, the first of the  lawmakers who questioned Cabinet and security officials.

Opposition senator Bam Aquino was among the four senators who voted against the measure.

In a statement, Aquino said the extension is too long, and may take away the Congress duty on check and balances.

"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," Aquino said.

Senator Kiko Pangilinan, in a statement, said "martial law is an extreme measure and should never be resorted to except in extreme circumstances."

Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat, meanwhile, said he will file a petition against the decision before the Supreme Court.

"Now we bring the issue to the Supreme Court and we hope they can remove the blinders of ambition and absolute loyalty and protect our shrinking democratic space," he said in his Twitter page.

Albay Representative Edcel Lagman earlier said he will also question the martial law proclamation and extension before the high court.

Baguilat and Lagman have petitioned the first martial law extension before the Supreme Court. But the high court ruled to uphold the Congress' decision to allow the extension of martial law.

The Communist Party of the Philippines, which Duterte earlier tagged as a terrorist movement, said Duterte called on the extension of martial law after failing on his supposed revolutionary government.

"He has resorted to calling on his  minions in  congress to grant him and his military cabal a full year of  martial rule  to carry out his triple wars of suppression...With barely concealed steps, Duterte is  setting up his fascist  dictatorship to perpetuate himself in power," it said in a statement.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said the extension was "unacceptable."

"How can there be unlimited peace when Duterte himself scuttled the peace talks, deployed more than 60 army battalion across Mindanao and declared an all-out war against the people. Duterte only wants unlimited power and authority to impose dictatorship," KMP secretary general Antonio Flores said.

Support for the extension

Anak Mindanao Party-list Rep. Makmod Mending and Lanao del Sur Rep. Mauyag Papandayan, in a statement, said Mindanaoans are generally in favor of the martial law extension.

Maguindanao Rep. Zajid Mangudadatu and Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Maximo Rodriguez also said the island group is safer with the imposition of martial law.

Other congressmen, namely Representatives Frederick Siao, Mikee Romero, Bernadette Herrera-Dy, and Salvador Belaro also expressed their support for the measure.

Lanao del Sur Crisis Management Committee spokesperson Zia Alonto Adiong also said he supports the martial law extension, as it will address the looming threats of rebellion and terrorism in the region.

"Although it is true that the combat operation launched by our state forces against the attackers of Marawi may have been terminated which led to the activation of the early recovery phase for the City, the challenge, however, to normalize the peace and security condition on the ground in relation to the on-going efforts to respond on threats against the whole province is still a work in progress," Adiong said in a statement.