Duterte wants to extend martial law until end of 2017

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 18) — President Rodrigo Duterte has asked Congress to extend martial law in Mindanao until December 31, 2017, over concerns of a "looming situation," Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said on Tuesday.

Duterte proposed to Senate President Koko Pimentel and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to continue military rule in the southern Philippines for over five more months because the "looming situation in Mindanao has to be addressed," Abella said in a press conference.

The President has also requested that the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus be likewise extended.

"I have come to the conclusion that the existing rebellion in Mindanao, which has prompted me to issue Proclamation No. 216 on 23rd May 2017, will not be quelled completely by 22nd July 2017," Duterte said in a portion of his letter read aloud by Abella.

"For this reason, because public safety requires it, I call upon the Congress to extend until 31st of December 2017 or for such a period of time as the Congress may determine the proclamation of martial law and the suspension of privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao," he added.

 

Duterte placed Mindanao under martial law on May 23, hours after fighting between government forces and ISIS-linked Maute group broke out in Marawi City.

Proclamation 216, which declared martial law, will lapse on July 22 in line with the 60-day limit under the 1987 Constitution.

Martial law administrator Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, martial law implementor General Eduardo Año, and Police Chief Ronald Dela Rosa have given their recommendations, but the President used his "thorough, personal assessment" and his own sources of information as basis for his request, Abella said.

"The primary objective of the possible extension is to allow our forces to continue with their operation, unhampered by deadlines and to focus more on the liberation of Marawi and its rehabilitation and rebuilding," Abella said.

Abella: Extension to address Mindanao-wide situation

Despite the military's pronouncement it is "doable" to end the conflict in Marawi before the end of July, Abella said Duterte still sees the threat of rebellion in Mindanao serious enough to back up his request for an extension of martial law.

"Enough to be able to declare that it should be extended. The President is, has been prescient in seeing this and so it's something that while it can be of concern, we can also be confident in the fact that...he's taking a proactive action regarding the matter," he said.

Abella said that in Duterte's seven-page detailed summary report on the situation in Mindanao, there are "forces within" and the situation in the entire region of Mindanao "needs to be totally and completely addressed."

He added the President's decision to ask for an extension is his way to address the Mindanao-wide threat.

"As far as this proposal is concerned, it is not just locally confined, it is actually a whole systems approach. It has to do with the… It has to do with the network of forces that are all over Mindanao," Abella said.

Duterte also mentioned in his letter that the rebels in Mindanao use money from drug deals to fund their activities.

Senate President: Congress may debate length of martial law

Senate President Koko Pimentel is confident the Congress supermajority will grant the extension and coverage of martial law, but it may hit a snag during talks of the length of the imposition of martial law.

"Sa extension, kumpiyansa ako doon. Siguro may konting debate tayo sa period. Para klaro, ang extension will be over the same area, all over Mindanao. Kumpyansa ako na supermajority ang mag-aagree diyan, pati sa coverage I think supermajority din ang mag-aagree. Siguro ang kakain lang ng oras sa joint session ay how long should the extension be," he told CNN Philippines on Tuesday.

The Congress, in a joint session, will discuss Duterte's proposal beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday, the day the proclamation's 60-day period expires. It must hold a joint session to either revoke or extend this period.

During Duterte's dinner with lawmakers on Monday night, several senators said the President asked for a 60-day extension of the martial law. Abella said Duterte's letter to Pimentel and Alvarez was written after their dinner.

Pimentel said if Duterte's formal proposal, which he has not yet read, mentions extending martial law in Mindanao until year end, they will convene on it.

"Congress will have to use its discretion or wisdom on the issue... However, the President is asking for a period of time, then we should give way to the period of time requested by the President because he's the one who declared martial law and he is the one asking for this extension," Pimentel said.

Under the 1987 Constitution, the initial proclamation of martial law may only be declared for the whole or parts of the country for 60 days. But there is no limit for the extension. The extension period will be determined by the Congress.

Article VII, Sec. 18 of the Constitution reads: "Upon the initiative of the President, the Congress may in the same manner, extend such proclamation or suspension for a period to be determined by the Congress if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it."

When asked for the basis of martial law extension, Pimentel said, "Sabi niya (Duterte), 'We have to do this kasi meron na ngang rebellion in Marawi City. To clear up Marawi City, konting panahon na lang ang kailangan.'"

The Congress on Wednesday is set to hold a security briefing on the situation on the ground in Marawi.

AFP: Martial law extension a political decision

Armed Forces of the Philippines-PAO Chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said that aside from an assessment of the operations in Marawi, there were also recommendations towards reconstruction and recovery of the conflict-torn city.

"Hindi na po iyan purely military solution. Kailangan, sa assessment ng ating Pangulo, kung baka kailanganin niya pa ang martial law then that would be the reason why he would request for the extension," he told CNN Philippines.

Arevalo said Duterte may have received information that prompted him to ask for an extension.

"President is privy to inputs and information concerning security from other agencies of government. With regards to his decision whether to cease the enforcement of the martial law or extend it is entirely a political decision that the President will have to make," he said.

 

Military officials on the ground in Marawi City say they are focusing its operations on flushing some 60 Maute fighters believed to be holding out in four barangays in Marawi City. He added that two of these barangays were considered the terror group's centers of "command and control" and were harder to penetrate. They also have less than 600 buildings to clear.

The Marawi crisis is on its 56th day. Government troops have killed 413 terrorists.

Story updated on July 19 to include President Rodrigo Duterte's letter in full.