DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 04 December) — From 60 days to 222 to 587 to 952 days. From two months to seven to 19 to 31 months.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are recommending to President Rodrigo Duterte yet another extension of martial law in Mindanao’s 27 provinces and 33 cities for another year, until 31 December 2019, bringing to 952 days the period of martial law from only 60 days when the President issued Proclamation 216 on May 23, Day 1 of the Marawi Siege.
The current recommendation is for a third extension of martial law. From 60 days until July 22, 2017, it was extended to 222 days until December 31, 2017; to 587 days until December 31, 2018; and to 952 days until December 31, 2019.
Duterte told Malacanang reporters Monday afternoon that extending martial law “will depend on the recommendation of the military and the police.”
“They are the guys on the ground.I’m here in Pasig River. I am not aware of the nitty-gritty happenings all over the country,” said the President, who, since he assumed the Presidency on June 30, 2016, has been spending his weekends in Mindanao’s Davao City, where he served as mayor for 22 years.
Earlier that morning in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Carlito Galvez, the Martial Law Implementor, said they are recommending another extension “so that we can substantially make significant ano, significant dent on terrorism.”
Galvez told reporters that “the RPOCs (Regional Peace and Order Councils) and also the local government units and even the Comelec (Commission on Elections) and other agencies are recommending for extension of at least one year.
He said there is “really a clamor forthe extension considering that the terrorism is still lurking in the area.”
He cited as justification the bombing in Basilan, the recent encounter in Sulu (“the Sulu problem still persists”) and the bombings in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat and General Santos and “also continuous bombing in Maguindanao so there is really a need to constrict and limit the maneuver space of the terrorists to the maximum.”
“We have a very weak terrorism law so with that, martial law is need to completely defeat the terrorism,” he added.
Also on Monday, Philippine National Police Chief Oscar Albayalde told a press briefing in Camp Crame that they are for the extension. Albayalde had said in a press briefing in early November that “we will support the extension especially with the upcoming elections.”
Two electoral exercises will be held in Mindanao next year: the January 21 plebiscite on the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in the proposed territory, and the May 13 midterm elections.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, a Mindanawon, last month warned that “floating the possibility of further extending martial law in Mindanao can be exploited to ensure the victory of administration allies in next year’s midterm elections.”
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, another Mindanawon, wants the military to explain martial law is still needed.
“Dapat kung mayroon mang request for extension, there should be a briefing at bakit justified pa even after one year and seven months, ‘di ba?” Pimentel told Senate reporters on Monday.
“From the point of view of the legislator who will give his consent, kailangan pong i-briefing naman kami to go over the justification,” Pimentel said, adding his approach is Constitutional. “There must be that basic condition on the ground: lawless violence, invasion, rebellion, plus public safety requires it.”
Third-termer North Cotabato Rep. Nancy Catamco cited six reasons why she wants martial law extended: to reinforce all government efforts in establishing peace in Mindanao; significantly lower criminality and further deter lawlessness and violence; strengthen people’s resolve to respect the law and government; create a climate of peace and not of fear especially among investors and businesses; deter private and illegal armed groups from sowing fear among Indigenous Peoples communities and those in far-flung areas; ensure the prompt and unhindered delivery of infrastructure projects and other basic goods and services by the Duterte administration.
“These are only the tip of the iceberg but this representation believes that the martial law in Mindanao is the better alternative that would support our government’s call for a lasting peace. Further, what really makes the difference is the integrity and the wisdom of the Duterte presidency to spell out its mandate of ensuring for the Filipino people a better future,” said Catamco, who is running for Governor of North Cotabato under the President’s PDP-Laban party.
Another Mindanawon, Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin, said extending martial law due to incidents of sporadic violence “has no constitutional basis.”
“Only if there is rebellion, invasion or lawlessness violence and when public safety so requires can martial law be justified,” Villarin stressed.
“Martial law is not the solution to addressing the twin problems of Mindanao- poverty and conflict. It prevents people from engaging in dialogue and conversation on how to tackle such problems or they become participants in solving the problem. Martial law only gives a false sense of peace and security without addressing the roots of the problem, it only masks it rather than really cures the problem,” he said.
He said the Department of National Defense and the AFP “must convince Congress for the necessity of extension as well as its constitutional basis.”
He also noted that these institutions have “failed to regularly update Congress on martial law’s imposition and now it will be seeking an extension. Without accountability and transparency, how can they come to Congress again seeking another extension?”
“We will rectify”
At the Joint Session of Congress on December 13 last year to deliberate on the second extension of martial law from January 1 to December 31, 2018, Anak Mindanao party list Rep. Macmod Mending said the general sentiment in Mindanao was “in support” of the extension. But he pushed for Congress’ oversight.
He recalled that on July 22, during the Joint Session to deliberate on the first extension of martial law until December 31, 2017, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana committed to send Congress a weekly report on the implementation of martial law. He asked Lorenzana if they did.
“I apologize for that mistake that we made. The AFP has been reporting to us weekly and even monthly reports but for some reason nothing has been submitted to Congress. We will rectify that,” Lorenzana vowed.
Villarin had earlier told MindaNews that when he checked the records, as of November 23, 2018, the committees on Mindanao Affairs, National Defense, and Rules, and the Office of the Secretary-General had not received any report from the DND/AFP on martial law in Mindanao.
In the first extension, the rebellion in Marawi, the reason for the declaration of martial law, was still ongoing. President Duterte declared Marawi “liberated from the terrorist influence” on October 17, 2017.
Lorenzana terminated all combat operations in Marawi a week later, on October 23.
“The Philippine security forces, aided by its government and the massive support of the Filipino people have nipped the budding terrorism infrastructure and defeated terrorism in the Philippines,” he said.(Carolyn O. Arguillas with a report from Ferdinand B. Cabrera / MindaNews)