Gov't: Martial law in Mindanao needed due to 'continuing actual rebellion'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 13) — The executive branch told lawmakers on Wednesday that martial law in Mindanao must be extended again in light of other threats in the region.

"The request of the President, as contained in his letter, is not based on an assessment of an existing threat, but on the basis of a continuing actual rebellion," said Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra at Congress' joint session to deliberate the extension of martial law.

 

Gueverra's statement came after Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon questioned the need to extend martial law, considering that the Marawi crisis was already over.

"The government, through Secretary Lorenzana, declared the rebellion in Marawi City to have been terminated," Drilon said. "There is no more state of rebellion. It is on this basis that we believe that the continued imposition of martial law does not find basis under the Constitution."

 

President Duterte himself declared the liberation of Marawi after a hard-fought, five-month conflict and a day after the killing of terrorist leaders.

Read: Duterte declares liberation of Marawi

On October 23, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced the end of combat operations in Marawi City.

Read: Fighting in Marawi City is over

But Guevarra said in the case of Lagman vs. Medialdea, where the Supreme Court upheld President Rodrigo Duterte's declaration of martial law in May 2017, the high court found the existence of a state of rebellion in the whole of Mindanao.

"As a matter of fact, the Supreme Court mentioned other events happening elsewhere other than Marawi City," he said. "It enumerated incidents happening in Basilan, in Tawi-Tawi, in Cotabato and elsewhere in Mindanao."

Lorenzana also responded to Drilon, saying that the rebellion in Mindanao has not yet stopped and has shifted to other places.

"The other ISIS-inspired groups in Mindanao are also active like the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters) in Central Mindanao and also in some other parts of the BaSulTa (Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi) islands," he said. "The reports now is that they are actively recruiting again.

 

On Sunday, President Rodrigo Duterte signed a letter calling on Congress to extend martial law and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao until Dec. 31, 2018.

Read: Duterte asks Congress to extend martial law in Mindanao for a year

Under the 1987 Constitution, Congress has the power to revoke or extend the President's declaration of martial law, which can last only up to 60 days.

Duterte first declared martial law and suspended habeas corpus in Mindanao on May 23 after members of the ISIS-inspired Maute terrorist group charged into Marawi City, as government forces were attempting to arrest former Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who was appointed "emir" of ISIS in Southeast Asia.

Read: Duterte declares martial law in Mindanao

When Duterte's proclamation reached the 60-day deadline, Congress extended martial law in Mindanao until Dec. 31, 2017.

Read: Congress grants Duterte's request to extend martial law in Mindanao until end of year