MANILA: Martial law will be extended in the Philippine island of Mindanao until Dec. 31, 2019, after Congress on Wednesday approved President Rodrigo Duterte’s request.
Duterte first imposed martial law in Mindanao in May 2017, after Daesh-inspired fighters seized the city of Marawi. After a 60-day grace period, he asked for and was granted a five-month extension.
The president in his latest request cited a security assessment by the military, and the police indicating that terrorism remained a problem on the island. He wrote to Congress saying the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Daulah Islamiyah (DI) and other militant groups continued to defy the government by carrying out hostile activities.
Congress voted overwhelmingly in favor of his request, with 235 for and 28 against.
“A further extension of the implementation of martial law and suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao will enable the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines), the PNP (Philippine National Police) and all other law enforcement agencies to finally put an end to the ongoing rebellion in Mindanao and continue to prevent the same from escalating in other parts of the country,” Duterte said in his letter.
“We cannot afford to give the rebels further breathing room to regroup and strengthen their forces. Public safety indubitably requires such further extension in order to avoid the further loss of lives and physical harm, not only to our soldiers and the police, but also to our civilians.”
Some of those who voted against the extension said there was no constitutional basis for it or anything that looked like an uprising.
There was also concern about further unrest in Mindanao.
"Prolonged martial rule in a large area affecting the lives of millions of our citizens is authoritarian and contrary to our constitutional democracy. Worse, it will not improve the economic welfare of our citizens," said opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros.
Other lawmakers said there was not enough evidence that the whole of Mindanao was under threat.
Frederick Siao, from Mindanao, asked the government to produce clear and verifiable results but backed the president’s request.
"99 percent of my constituents in Iligan City are in favor of martial law extension in the whole of Mindanao. I ask the government to slash away security threats by at least 30 percent, decimate lawless groups in one year. There is no forever martial law in Mindanao."