Whatever happened to the martial law implementation reports to Congress?

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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 09 December) — On December 13, 2017, at the Joint Session of the House of Representatives and the Senate to deliberate on the proposed second extension of martial law in Mindanao until December 31, 2018, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the Martial Law Administrator, apologized for their failure to submit reports to Congress on the implementation of martial law, as they had promised in July, and vowed to “rectify that.”

Anakbayan Rep. Tom Villarin checked with the committees on Mindanao Affairs, National Defense, and Rules, and the Office of the Secretary-General and as of November 23 was told they had not received any report from the DND/AFP (Department of National Defense / Armed Forces of the Philippines).

Several members of Congress have said they want a briefing first on what the military has done to  quell rebellion in the last 19 months under martial law and why it has to be extended for another 12 months.

Defense and military officials are set to appear again before a Joint Session on Wednesday, December 12, to deliberate on the proposed third extension of martial law until December 31, 2019.

The extension will bring to 952 days the period of martial law until December 31, 2019 from its first declaration on May 23, 2017. The first declaration was supposed to be only for a period of 60 days.

Barely eight hours after the first shots were fired on Day 1 of the Marawi Siege on May 23, 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte, then on a state visit in Russia, issued Proclamation 216, placing Mindanao’s 27 provinces and 33 cities under martial law. He also suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

At the time he declared martial law, the entire Philippines had been under a “State of National Emergency on account of lawless violence in Mindanao” since September 4, 2016, through Proclamation 55.  The Proclamation was issued two days after a bomb explosion in his own Davao City left 14 persons dead and 70 others injured (the 15th, a pregnant woman who lapsed into coma, died a few days later).

Article VII Section 18 of the 1987 Constitutionprovides that “in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he may, for a period not exceeding sixty days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law” and that Congress may extend such proclamation “for a period to be determined by the Congress, if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it.”

“We will rectify that”

Anak Mindanao party list Rep. Macmod Mending had asked Lorenzana on December 13 last year if they submitted what they committed to do on July 22, 2017, during the Joint Session to deliberate on the first extension of martial law until December 31, 2017.

Mending said the general sentiment in Mindanao was “in support” of the extension but he pushed for Congress’ oversight, recalling that in July, Lorenzana committed to send Congress a weekly report on the implementation of martial law.

He asked Lorenzana if they did. Lorenzana replied: “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.”

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana surveys the firearms captured from the Maute Group which should have been presented to President Rodrigo Duterte had he arrived in Campo Ranao, Marawi City on 8 June 2017. The President’s trip was cancelled due to “foul weather,” Lorenzana said. MindaNews file photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

On September 21 this year, MindaNews asked AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Carlito Galvez, the Martial Law Implementor, for copies of their reports to Congress and their list of accomplishments, including how many of those listed in Arrest Orders 1 and 2 have in fact been arrested.

Galvez replied: “I cannot give you the AFP report to Congress since the report includes operational matters which are only intended for Congress.”

He did not answer the query on the arrest orders.

On November 12, MindaNews again asked about the AFP’s report to Congress. Galvez replied “I will address the public in due time in Congress.”

MindaNews asked Lorenzana and Galvez in a text message on November 23 how many reports have they filed in Congress, since December last year for Lorenzana and since April for Galvez when he became Chief of Staff.  They sent no reply.

Arrest Orders 1 and 2

Lorenzana as Martial Law Administrator issued Arrest Orders 1 and 2 on May 29, and June 5, 2017 directing the military and police to “arrest, take into custody and conduct/continue the investigation” on those on the list for alleged “violation of Article 134 (Rebellion) of the Revised Penal in connection with their having been identified as members/supporters/spies/couriers of the Maute Group and /or Abu Sayyaf Group and known as perpetrators/supporters/spies/couriers for indiscriminately killing, kidnapping, perpetuate bombings in Marawi CIty and some parts of Mindanao..”

The group’s intent, Lorenzana said was “for … removing Mindanao from the territory of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines or its laws by establishing an independent Islamic State and/or deprive the Chief Executive of his powers and prerogatives as President of the Republic.”

The two arrest orders listed 284 names: 139 in Arrest Order 1, 36 of them known only by their aliases; and 145 in Arrest Order 2, some of whom were already listed under AO1.

Several names were repeated in both arrest orders. For example, Hamsa Romato Maute was named in Arrest Orders 1 and 2.

Exactly how many have been arrested out of the total 284 on the list?

Warrantless arrests

On June 28 last year, then AFP spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, told CNN Philippines’ Town Hall that 66 had been arrested on rebellion charges, “an achievement which could have not been possible without military rule.”

“In normal times you will have to go the courts, line up, get those search warrants, get those arrest warrants and before you know it, once those are issued, nakatakas na yung mga huhulihin mo (the suspects have fled),” Padilla said.

Almost half a year later, in his letter to Congress on December 8, 2017, Duterte said “at least 185 persons listed in the Martial Law Arrest Orders have remained at large, and in all probability, are consolidating their forces.”

By then, the five-month war from May 23 to October 23, 2017 in Marawi City had long been over, with 165 government forces and 919 enemy forces killed, according to the military.

How many of the 185 have been arrested or have surrendered or have been killed after December 8, 2017?

Total eradication

In his letter to the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives on December 8, 2017, Duterte cited Lorenzana’s December 4 letter that based on current security assessment made by the AFP Chief of Staff,  he was recommending the extension of martial law in Mindanao until December 31, 2018 “primarily to ensure total eradication of DAESH-inspired Da’awatul Islamiyah Waliyatul Masriq (DIWM), other like-minded Local/Foreign Terrorist Groups (L/FTGs) and Armed Lawless Groups (ALGs), and the communist terrorists (CTs) and their coddlers, supporters, and financiers.”

Extending martial law, he said, would help the AFP, the PNP and all other law enforcement agencies “quell completely and put an end to the ongoing rebellion in Mindanao and prevent the same from escalating to other parts of the country.”

Duterte said public safety “indubitably requires such further extension” not only for security and public order but “more importantly to enable the government and the people of Mindanao to pursue the bigger talks of rehabilitation and the promotion of a stable socio-economic growth and development.”

Liberated

Duterte declared Marawi City “liberated from the terrorist influence” on October 17, a day after the leaders of the siege — Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, the alleged Emir of East Asia, and Omar Maute, were killed.

Lorenzana announced the termination of all combat operations in Marawi on October 23, exactly five months after the siege began and five months after  martial law was declared.

On Dec. 8, 2017, on the same day Duterte wrote Congress, AFP spokesperson Maj. Gen. Padilla told a press briefing in Malacanang that while the ISIS-inspired groups that operated in Marawi were still a threat, “they have significantly been degraded in terms of capability and manpower,” that those who survived that siege “still remain at large and are attempting to recover by recruiting other members of the society, particularly the vulnerable sector of our population, and they are students, children, women and the like, as well as relatives of those who lost their lives in the fight.”

Padilla said the groups that operated in Marawi are “scattered,” “disorganized,” and “leaderless.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews

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