Senators remain split on ML extension in Mindanao

By Jose Cielito Reganit

December 10, 2018, 7:05 pm

MANILA -- Following a closed-door meeting with security officials, senators on Monday expressed differing opinions on whether martial law in Mindanao should be extended or not.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said it is in his opinion that there is a continuing rebellion in Mindanao.

“As I said, there is actual rebellion happening. I cannot go into the details, personally, yes, I’m convinced,” he said in an interview after the executive session.

The Senate leader said although defense officials have reported “more gains” in the past, the target of the requested extension is to “once and for all remove the issue of rebellion.”

“There are more gains, pero mabigat pa rin, at kailangan tigilin na. In other words, kailangan talagang mapigil na yung rebellion (but it is still serious and needed to be stopped. In other words, rebellion really needed to be stopped)," Sotto said.

Asked what group or groups are the military’s main targets for the requested extension, Sotto said the “CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples’ Army)."

On the other hand, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he is not convinced that there is a basis for another martial law extension in Mindanao.

He said under the Constitution, there must be rebellion, insurrection, and public safety requirements before martial law can be declared.

“Rebellion is defined by law as an actual uprising design to remove the allegiance from the government. What I am saying is that I am not convinced and there has been no showing that there is actual armed uprising,” he said in a separate interview.

“I didn’t hear anything that constitute actual uprising to remove the allegiance of the government or any part thereof,” Drilon said.

Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, meanwhile, is proposing a six-month extension, if ever martial law is to be extended, to preclude a legal issue that may crop up.

“Our term of office is only until June (2019). Can this Congress extend martial law beyond its term? Legally, that is another issue,” he said in another interview.

He said what is appealing is that the military promised to wipe out the Abu Sayyaf and reduce the capability of the CPP-NPA if they are given another one-year extension.

“That is an appealing proposition to extend martial law, but then why not six months if at all,” he said.

“It is my position, if at all, at least six months and let the next Congress approve if they need another six months. It’s being discussed,” Recto said.

President Rodrigo Duterte Duterte first declared martial law in Mindanao after the ISIS-inspired Maute Group laid siege to Marawi City on May 23, 2017.

Since then, Congress has twice granted the Chief Executive’s request for the extension of martial law in the region, with the last one expiring on Dec. 31, 2018.

On the recommendation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), President Duterte has called anew on Congress for another year of martial law in the region.

In his letter addressed to Senate President Vicente Sotto III and House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo dated Dec. 6, Duterte said terrorist groups “continue to defy the government by perpetrating hostile activities” in Mindanao during the extended period of martial law.

He said that security assessment submitted by the AFP and PNP indicate that “rebellion still persists in Mindanao and public safety requires the continuation of martial law.”

In his request, the President cited the recent bombings in the region -- which included the ones that happened in Lamitan City, Basilan; Isulan, Sultan Kudarat; and in General Santos City.

Duterte said the extension of martial law “will enable the AFP, the PNP and other law enforcement agencies to finally put an end to the on-going rebellion in Mindanao and continue to prevent the same from escalating in other parts of the country.” (PNA)