MANILA, Philippines – Albay 1st District Edcel Lagman, a legislator who belongs to a House independent opposition bloc, hit President Rodrigo Duterte’s desire to extend martial law in Mindanao.
“[Duterte’s] request for Congress to extend martial law in the entire Mindanao for one more year amounts to a patent violation of the safeguards which the 1987 Constitution imposes for the limited grounds and duration of martial law and its extension,” said Lagman in a statement on Monday, December 11.
House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas on December 10 confirmed that the Palace would be sending to both chambers of Congress – the House and Senate – a formal letter asking for an extension of martial law in Mindanao.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea confirmed that Duterte wants one more year of martial rule in the island group, more than 7 months after local terror groups who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State or ISIS attempted to take over Marawi City.
Duterte himself has since declared Marawi “liberated”, after the military killed top terror group leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute. The military ended combat operations on October 23.
And since the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups are considered defeated, Lagman said there is no more basis for martial law in Mindanao.
“Where is the actual invasion or actual rebellion in Mindanao? The Constitution provides that martial law can only be declared and its extension authorized in case of invasion or rebellion when public safety requires it,” said Lagman.
“There is no more factual basis for the extension of martial law in Mindanao after President Duterte declared the liberation of Marawi City from rebels and terrorists almost two months ago, and government combat forces had been withdrawn,” he added.
Both the military and police recommended the extension of martial law in the area, citing continuing threats from terror groups. Lagman insisted this argument does not stand.
“This is not a constitutional ground because threat or imminent danger of an invasion or rebellion has been removed as a ground for martial law in the 1987 Constitution for being self-serving, contingent and even nebulous,” he said.
Lagman said Duterte’s request is a “malevolent perpetuation of the subjugation of the supermajority in the Congress by the President even against the unequivocal provisions of the Constitution protecting civil liberties and the rule of law. The House ‘supermajority’ is led by the ruling PDP-Laban and counts politicians from different parties as its members.”
The request, said Lagman, is a “blatant mockery of the liberality of the majority of the Supreme Court in upholding the President’s past questionable actions.”
“The President’s alternative is to call the armed forces to subdue lawless violence or declare martial law anew but limited by constitutional restraints and subject to the oversight powers of the Congress and the Supreme Court,” he said.
Once the leadership of both chambers of Congress officially receive the letter, they are expected to hold a joint session to discuss the matter. Session will adjourn on December 15, 2017 for a month-long break. – Rappler.com