Philippine Congress votes to extend martial law in Mindanao

Philippine security officials had earlier told Congress militants loyal to Daesh were regrouping and recruiting young fighters after being defeated in Marawi City, south of the country. (Reuters)
Updated 14 December 2017
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Philippine Congress votes to extend martial law in Mindanao

MANILA: Philippine lawmakers on Wednesday overwhelmingly backed President Rodrigo Duterte’s plan to extend martial law for all of next year in Mindanao, an island he called a “flashpoint for trouble” and atrocities by radical and communist rebels.
The extension, until Dec. 31 next year, would mark the longest period of martial law since the 1970s era of late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, one of the darkest and most oppressive chapters of the country’s recent history.
At a joint session of Congress, 240 out of 267 lawmakers agreed with Duterte on the need for tough measures to stop Muslim militants recruiting fighters and preparing a new wave of attacks after occupying Marawi City for five months this year.
Duterte thanked Congress for its support and said the communist New People’s Army and militants loyal to Daesh were equally threatening.
“There is a need for me to come up with something, otherwise Mindanao will blow apart,” he told reporters.
The government worries that mountainous, jungle-clad Mindanao, a region the size of South Korea that is home to the Muslim minority, could attract international extremists.
The Marawi City assault was the Philippines’ biggest security crisis in decades, killing more than 1,100 people, mostly militants. The armed forces took 154 days to win the battle, and 185 extremists are estimated to still be at large.
Duterte enjoys massive public support, but his frequent threats to expand martial law are contentious in a country that suffered nine years of oppression under Marcos before his ouster in 1986.
Marcos was accused of inventing security threats to justify tightening his grip on power and crushing detractors.
Duterte’s opponents lament his authoritarian streak and speculate that his end game is to emulate Marcos by declaring martial law nationwide, as he has often threatened. Asked several times on Wednesday if he was prepared to go that far, he said, “It depends on the enemies of the state.”
Minority lawmakers said the extension of martial law was illegal because Duterte had cited security threats, rather than rebellion or invasion, the conditions under which martial law can be invoked.
Duterte scoffed at the notion that the conflict in Mindanao, his home for most of his life, did not constitute rebellion.
“There is actually rebellion in Mindnanao, it is ongoing, the fighting is going on,” he said.
Congressman Tom Villarin said martial law would cost a huge amount of money, calling broad support for it a “death blow to our democracy.”
“We have made martial law the new normal, absent of any proof of invasion or rebellion,” he said. “Martial law now desensitizes the people to wrongly equate it with good governance and democracy.”
In his request to Congress on Monday, Duterte had argued that a little-known operative active in Mindanao, Abu Turaifie, was “said to be” Daesh’s potential point man in Southeast Asia.


Official count shows Widodo reelected as Indonesian leader

Updated 34 min 45 sec ago
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Official count shows Widodo reelected as Indonesian leader

  • Widodo’s challenger for a second time, former general Prabowo Subianto, has refused to accept defeat and declared himself the winner last month
  • Police this month have arrested 31 Islamic militants they say planned to set off bombs during expected street protests against the election result
JAKARTA, Indonesia: The official count from last month’s Indonesian presidential election shows President Joko Widodo won 55.5% of the vote, the Election Commission said Tuesday, securing him a second term.
The formal result from the April 17 election was almost the same as the preliminary “quick count” results drawn from a sample of polling stations on election day.
Widodo’s challenger for a second time, former general Prabowo Subianto, has refused to accept defeat and declared himself the winner last month.
Thousands of police and soldiers are on high alert in the capital Jakarta, anticipating protests from Subianto’s supporters.
Subianto has alleged massive election fraud in the world’s third-largest democracy but hasn’t provided any credible evidence. Votes are counted publicly and the commission posts the tabulation form from each polling station on its website, allowing for independent verification.
Counting was completed just before midnight and the Election Commission announced the results early Tuesday before official witnesses from both campaigns.
“We reject the results of the presidential election,” said Azis Subekti, one of the witnesses for Subianto. “This refusal is a moral responsibility for us to not give up the fight against injustice, fraud, arbitrariness, lies, and any actions that will harm democracy.”
Under Indonesia’s election law, Subianto can dispute the results at the Constitutional Court.
He and members of his campaign team have said they will mobilize “people power” for days of street protests rather than appeal to the court because they don’t believe it will provide justice.
In a video released after results were announced, Subianto again refused to concede defeat but called on supporters to refrain from violence.
Police this month have arrested 31 Islamic militants they say planned to set off bombs during expected street protests against the election result.