DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 22 July) — By a vote of 261-18, with only three Mindanawon Representatives voting “No,” the joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives approved Saturday the request of President Rodrigo Duterte to extend martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus all over Mindanao’s 27 provinces and 33 cities until 31 December 2017.
All Moro representatives present voted for extension. Anak Mindanao party-list Representatives were absent while Kusug Tausug party-list Rep. Shernee Abubakar Tan did not only vote yes, she also proposed that martial law be declared all over the country.
Tan is the youngest daughter of former Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan and incumbent Sulu Vice Governor Nurunisah Abubakar. The incumbent Governor, Abdusakur Tan II, is her brother.
Mindanao has 59 district representatives and at least seven party-list members. Two district representatives — Tupay Loong of Sulu and Jum Akbar of Basilan — died last year.
Only three Mindanawon Representatives – all party-list members — voted against extension: Bayan Muna’s Carlos Isagani Zarate, Anakpawis’ Ariel Casilao and Akbayan’s Tom Villarin, all of them from Davao City, where the President served as mayor for 22 years.
The Senate voted 16 – 4 with opposition Senators Franklin Drilon, Francis Pangilinan, Risa Hontiveros and Bam Aquino voting against.
Drilon proposed an amendment to the motion filed by Senator Gringo Honasan to approve the extension by limiting it to only 60 days but Honasan did not accept the amendment. When put to a vote, Drilon’s proposal was rejected.
Aquino said he would have agreed to a 60-day extension.
The House voted 245 – 14. Aside from Zarate, Casilao and Villarin, the 11 other Representatives who voted against extension were: Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza, Gabriela’s Emmie de Jesus and Arlene Brosas, ACT Teachers France Castro and Antonio Tinio, Kabataan’s Sarah Jane Elago, Magdalo’s Gary Alejano, Camarines Sur 3rd district Gabriel Bordado, Quezon City’s Kit Belmonte, and Ifugao’s Teddy Baguilat.
Going to Supreme Court
Lagman later told ABS-CBN’s News Channel that four of them will petition the Supreme Court to question the validity of the extension. Lagman was also among those who questioned the factual basis of the declaration of martial law.
By a vote of 11-3-1, the Supreme Court on July 4 dismissed all three petitions filed before it questioning the legality of the President’s May 23 declaration of martial law in all of Mindanao’s 27 provinces and 33 cities. Three voted for a limited scope while one said the declaration was without factual basis.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea; martial law administrator, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana; martial law implementor General Eduardo Ano, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines; and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon took turns explaining why martial law should be extended until yearend.
Medialdea called on 1st Lt. Kent Fagyan of the 1st Infantry Division, whose right arm was injured in Marawi, to narrate the difficulties of urban warfare.
Senator Grace Poe on the other hand called on a representative from civil society in Marawi, Samira Gutoc of the Ranao Rescue Team. Gutoc is among thousands of Marawi’s internally displaced persons.
“Please ask us, what do we feel?”
Gutoc cited three cases of human rights violations. The first case is a 20-year old mentally challenged male whom the mother brought to the hospital after hot water was poured on his hand after he was found in Saduc, Marawi and interrogated if he was a member of the Maute Group.
The second case involved 26 men who were rescued by men in uniform. One of the rescued narrated how they were asked to remove their tee-shirts, blindfold themselves and walk. “Walk blindfolded. And may narinig sila na baril Ma’am, Sir Senator, Sir President, may isang, sinabi ng boses ng isang authority, ‘maghukay na kayo ng inyong libingan.'”
The third case involved a pregnant woman who was held for questioning for a day by the police in Pagadian City for carrying dextrose (IV fluid) in her baggage.
Her voice quivering, Gutoc asked legislators to ask Marawi residents how they feel. “I am from Marawi City, Your Honors. Please ask us, what do we feel? Please ask us, how do we, how do we stand up and arise? Twenty bodies are in Capin Funeral (Homes in Iligan City). One hundred days, or almost 60 days, not buried. What if it was your grandfather na hindi po nilibing?” (who was not buried)?
She then informed them that in Islam the dead must be buried in 24 hours, that not doing so would be “the highest form of prohibition and taboo.”
She also noted how rescue volunteers have been burying babies “every five days” that that a woman evacuee undressed in an evacuation center, which is another taboo.
Drilon said there was no evidence of actual rebellion outside of Marawi City. He expressed fears that Congress “might be reduced into a mere echo chamber” for allowing an extension without any basis.
“Tomorrow we may wake up with marital law declared in the entire country,” he said.
Drilon also noted that the President’s letter to Congress only mentions 10 out of 27 provinces and that martial law “should be limited to those places where actual rebellion continues to exist, such as the 10 areas mentioned by President Duterte in his letter to Congress.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Jr. maintained he would have prefered that martial law be imposed not only for five more months but five more years or until the end of the Duterte administration on 30 June 2022. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)