MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Wednesday, December 13, warned that a further extension of martial law in Mindanao until the end of 2018 could be a “prelude” to a nationwide declaration of military rule.
Drilon cited red flags in President Rodrigo Duterte’s request to extend martial law during the joint session on Wednesday, December 13, including the sudden inclusion of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the grounds cited by Malacañang.
Drilon pointed out that original martial law declaration only covered the Maute group, and not the NPA.
“The President cited the NPA for the first time in this extension, the NPA was not cited in original request. The NPA has been there for the last 4 decades, suddenly in the extension request today, the NPA is cited as an additional ground for martial law extension in Mindanao. Mr President, I end this intervention with a question: Is this now a prelude to declaring martial law nationwide?” Drilon said.
Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra, for his part, did not discount such possibility, saying it will all depend on “factual circumstances.”
“I suppose that question is more rhetorical, Mr Senator. All of this will depend on factual circumstances as defined by the Constitution, where there is actual rebellion and public safety requires it. And there’s the third element according to the SC in Lagman vs Medialdea – there should be probable cause. All should be present before the President can declare [martial law],” Guevarra said.
The opposition senator maintained that the request is “unconstitutional” as the 1987 Constitution requires actual rebellion, not just threats, before making such proclamation.
He also cited the recent Supreme Court decision in Lagman vs Medialdea, where the SC said “it is clear that Congress can only extend the proclamation of martial law in case of an actual public uprising and taking of arms.”
Drilon said Duterte and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the martial law administrator, already declared Marawi City free from terrorists and withdrew troops on the ground.
Guevarra said that the absence of firefights in Marawi City is “not conclusive” that the state of rebellion in Mindanao is terminated.
Guevarra pointed out that the SC decision on Lagman vs Medialdea mentioned other events outside the city in its ruling.
“It enumerated incidents happening in Basilan, in Tawi-Tawi, in Cotabato and elsewhere in Mindanao. The Court even suggested or concluded all these suggest that the rebellion in Marawi has also spilled over to other parts of Mindanao,” Guevarra said.
Security officials and Malacañang have cited the continued recruitment and threats of Islamic State-inspired groups in Mindanao as among the grounds for further extension of martial law in the region.
They also argued that martial law has a “psychological” effect on soldiers that helps them in their fight against terrorists.
The 5-month martial law extension Congress had granted Duterte expires on December 31 this year. – Rappler.com