MANILA, Philippines – Progressive group Bayan Muna on Monday, December 11, raised alarm over President Rodrigo Duterte’s request to extend martial law in Mindanao, nearly two months after he declared Marawi City “liberated” from terrorists.
In a statement, Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate said the proposed extension could be used as a “smokescreen so that rehabilitation operations in Marawi would be conducted without bidding.”
He added: “It can be used to short-circuit and even do away with the rules on bidding and procurement process, which can potentially open windows for graft and corruption for this multibillion program.”
Duterte, through Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, asked Congress to extend martial law in Mindanao by another year, because the government needs it for the “total eradication” of Islamic State-inspired groups and “communist terrorists.”
The Senate and the House of Representatives will convene in a joint session to deliberate and vote on the request on Wednesday, December 13.
Zarate, who once belonged to the Duterte-allied House supermajority, said “unli-martial law” has no basis.
“It only causes hardships and sufferings to our people. The mentioned reasons in [the President’s] letter do not warrant an extension of martial law as the same can be addressed by normal police and military powers,” he added.
Zarate also flagged the mention of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), in Duterte’s letter to Congress.
“[This] may also signal intensified attacks by the military and the police on peasant and Lumad communities,” said Zarate, who belongs to the Makabayan bloc in the House.
The Makabayan bloc has since bolted the supermajority, opting to form its own independent opposition bloc.
“This also means more violations of rights of innocent civilians. For example, the following human rights violations documented by civil society and human rights organizations since Mindanao was placed under martial law: torture of suspects and forcing them to admit to being members of the Maute Group; hundreds, if not thousand, are still missing or presumed dead; massive looting of residences; arbitrary issuance of arrest orders that include names of ulama and members of CSOs, and massive displacement, among others,” Zarate said.
Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman, who belongs to another independent bloc in the House, earlier said Duterte’s request violates the safeguards in the Constitution. Lagman argued that there is no basis for the extension.
Duterte placed the entire Mindanao island under martial law last May 23 after the Islamic State-inspired Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups attempted to take over Marawi City.
After nearly 5 months of military operations, terror leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute were killed. Combat operations were declared over on October 23. – Rappler.com
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