Opposition lawmakers hit Duterte’s ‘whimsical’ martial law request

Mara Cepeda
Opposition lawmakers hit Duterte’s ‘whimsical’ martial law request
But Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez says Congress will probably grant the President's request to extend martial law, citing a survey that says majority of Filipinos support the original proclamation

MANILA, Philippines – Opposition lawmakers questioned why President Rodrigo Duterte is asking Congress to extend martial law in Mindanao until the end of December.

In a statement on Tuesday, July 18, Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin tagged the President’s proposal as “whimsical.”

“It’s a whimsical proposal that has no substantive grounds other than the President’s wishes. From verbalizing 60 days in a dinner with congressional leaders, now the President wants to make it 5 months,” said Villarin.

“It seems they are [neither] sure when to end martial law nor do they have clear outcomes. It is sending jitters to everyone who [doesn’t] want it extended or expanded,” he added.

The President first told ranking members of the Senate and the House about his request to extend martial law in Mindanao by 60 days in a meeting on Monday evening, July 17.  

The next day, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella read out the President’s official letter to Congress, which is now requesting for an extension of martial law until December 31. Congress is set to convene jointly to discuss this on Saturday, July 22. 

Duterte had declared martial law over the entire Mindanao through Proclamation No. 216, after government troops clashed with homegrown terrorists from the Maute Group and the Abu Sayyaf Group on May 23.  

Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr said he still cannot understand Duterte’s rationale for declaring martial law in Mindanao. He was among the petitioners who challenged Proclamation No. 216 before the Supreme Court, but the justices junked the petitions in a vote of 11-3-1.

“Has the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) presented solid and concrete reasons why it needs 5 months to annihilate Maute and [Islamic State]-aligned terrorists in Marawi? Are both AFP and PNP (Philippine National Police) saying that the terrorist threat has expanded beyond Lanao to include all of Mindanao and that 5 months of martial law is needed to control that threat?” asked Baguilat.

“I still can’t understand what extraordinary powers has ML added to the combative prowess of the AFP in fighting terrorism,” he added.

Despite the opposition lawmakers’ apprehensions, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez thinks Congress will be granting Duterte’s request.  

“Sa tingin ko ano, tuloy-tuloy lang ito. Seriously, kasi nakita naman natin ano, in all surveys, talagang pabor ‘yung taong bayan do’n sa declaration ng martial law sa Mindanao. Ibig sabihin, na-appreciate nila kung gaano kabigat ‘yung problema,” said Alvarez in a radio interview.  

(I think this will just continue. Seriously, because you can see in the surveys that the people agree with the declaration of martial law in Mindanao. This means they appreciate how serious the problem is.)

He was referring to the latest Social Weather Stations survey showing that more than half of Filipinos support Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao, but more than 6 out of 10 Filipinos oppose expanding military rule to the Visayas and Luzon.

Other House leaders earlier said lawmakers would likely grant an extension of martial law– Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.