Opposition mounts as Duterte wants Congress in special session to extend martial law

Jul. 18, 2017

In this file photo taken on June 23, 2017, activists in Davao City protested the implementation of Martial Law in Mindanao, a month after it was declared. More protest actions are expected after President Rodrigo Duterte urged Congress to extend the imposition of martial law. (Robby Joy D. Salveron/davaotoday.com)

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Various groups have expressed opposition to the plan of President Rodrigo Duterte to extend the imposition of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao.

Duterte is asking the Congress for a special session on Saturday, July 22, the 60th day of the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

The President’s request was confirmed by top leaders of both the Lower and Upper chambers of the country’s Congresson Monday.

Anakpawis party-list rep. Ariel Casilao told Davao Today on Tuesday that the request of President Duterte for a special session is for the extension of martial law.

“The Makabayan block, including Anakpawis will register strong opposition to the proposed extension of martial law in Mindanao,” Casilao said.

He added that they will assert and present documented cases of human rights violations on the duration of martial law implementation in Mindanao.

Casilao added they will also raise the maintained presence and participation of US troops in military operations in Mindanao, an act that constitutes an assault on the country’s sovereignty.

“We will adamantly oppose the extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. In the first place, the declaration was based on exaggerations, inaccuracies, and falsities as seen in inconsistent statements and so-called facts belied by the news and official reports,” said ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio.

Tinio and Rep. France Castro also condemned the proposal of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to extend martial law in Mindanao and vowed to oppose it in the upcoming special session on July 22.

“The Duterte administration should see past the military’s reports which hide the grave humanitarian crises in Mindanao, the real impact of martial law to the people,” Castro pointed out.

He added that 84,351 families were displaced and the evacuees are left with no choice but to stay evacuation centers where 39 (the Department of Health data said 40) already died due to common illnesses, he added.

“Martial law claimed the lives of 2 children and 39 evacuees. Six babies are born in evacuation centers where their basic needs are out of reach,” Castro lamented.

He also scored on the effects of the continuing war on the education of the 7,028 schoolchildren and students who were displaced in Marawi.

Castro also called on his colleagues in the lower House to reject the proposed extension of martial law and consider the extent of the destruction the martial brought to the lives and livelihood of the people of Mindanao.

Militant group Bayan, on the other hand, expressed fear to the plan of Duterte to extend martial law and the possible expansion of its coverage.

“Is the Duterte regime on its way to becoming a military dictatorship? This is our greatest fear now that Pres. Duterte wants martial law extended in Mindanao and possibly elsewhere,” the group said in a statement on Tuesday.

Bayan said the last 60 days of martial law in Mindanao have resulted in human rights violations especially in civilian communities where intense military operations are being implemented by the government.

“Aside from areas in and around Marawi, Lumad communities resisting large-scale mining have been particularly affected by intensified military operations, the group added.

It also scored the military’s interference in labor and land disputes in the guise of martial law and the implementation of repressive curfews, checkpoints, and blockades of food and medicines for communities affected by the continuing all-out war.

“This has got to stop,” Bayan said, adding that neither the situation in Marawi nor the entire Mindanao calls for such a drastic and draconian measure.

“On the contrary, we have been repeatedly told that the fighting in Marawi is coming to a close and that the Maute group is trapped and dwindling in number,” Bayan added.

The National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) also joined the various youth organizations and multi-sectoral groups in denouncing the extension of martial law in Mindanao.

“The request for extension is only an admission by the government that nothing has been achieved to solve the Marawi crisis in the 60-day span of the Martial Law,” said Mark Vincent Lim, spokesperson of NUSP in a statement to the mediaon Monday as he expressed fear extended martial law will bring more displacement, disappearances, rape, killings and other forms of human rights violations.

Martial law until December ‘17

Duterte wants to extend martial law until the end of December this year, said presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella.

In a press briefing in Malacañang on Tuesday, Abella read the content of the letter of Duterte to the leaders of the lower House and the Senate.

“Upon a thorough, personal assessment of the current situation in Marawi City and other parts of Mindanao, and taking into account the reports and recommendations of the Secretary of National Defense, as martial law administrator; the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), as martial law implementor; and the Chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP); I have come to the conclusion that the existing rebellion in Mindanao, which has prompted me to issue Proclamation No. 216 on 23rd May 2017 will not be quelled completely by 22nd July 2017. The last day of the 60-day period provided under Section 18 Article VII of the 1987 Constitution,” Duterte said in the letter.

Considering such reasons and for the safety of the public, the President has called upon the Congress to extend martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao until December 31, 2017“or for such a period of times as the Congress may determine.”

Defense Secretary Lorenzana submitted his report and recommendation on martial law to Duterte last July 13.

Abella did not elaborate other concerns the media asked during the press conference as he emphasized only on the content of the letter of the President sent to the leaders of the Congress. (davaotoday.com)

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