No actual rebellion, no data to back martial law extension – lawmakers

Mara Cepeda

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No actual rebellion, no data to back martial law extension – lawmakers
Military chief Lieutenant General Benjamin Madrigal Jr says there is also no allocation in the proposed 2019 budget for another year-long extension of martial law in Mindanao

MANILA, Philippines – Two opposition lawmakers said the government has failed to provide sufficient evidence to prove a third extension of martial law in Mindanao is needed to quell rebellion and develop the southern island.

During the joint Congress session on Wednesday, December 12, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman said there is no actual armed uprising nor is there enough empirical data to justify President Rodrigo Duterte’s request to extend martial rule to December 31, 2019. (LIVE:Congress joint session on martial law in Mindanao for 2019)

“There is nothing in these 4 grounds cited that shows actual uprising, actual rebellion, actual armed uprising. The Revised Penal Code imposes as elements for punishing the act of rebellion the element that there is an armed, actual uprising for the purpose of removing certain territories of the Philippines,” said Drilon. 

Duterte cited 4 grounds in his letter to Congress requesting for the extension:

  • The Abu Sayaff Group (ASG), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Daulah Islamiyah (DI), and other terrorist groups seeking to “promote global rebellion continue to defy the government by perpetrating hostile activities” during the extended period of martial law.
  • DI forces continue to conduct their “radicalization activities” and recruit new members among vulnerable Muslim communities.
  • Communist terrorist groups have publicly declared their intention to “seize political power through violent means.”
  • Communists also “took advantage and likewise posed serious security concerns.”

For Drilon, these grounds are not sufficient, saying: “We must remember that martial law is the highest form of self-preservation…. It cannot be the norm.” 

He added that the Duterte government cannot argue that martial law “makes governance effective.” Drilon said this is what senators were told during their security briefing on Tuesday, December 11. (READ: Senators raise legal issues on one-year martial law extension)

“Mister President, these are very disturbing thoughts. These are very disturbing conclusions. We cannot make martial law as an instrument to make governance more effective. That was never the intention of our framers,” argued the opposition senator.  

Security officials told lawmakers during the Tuesday briefing that the main intention of the extension is to “wipe out” communist and terrorist groups, echoing Duterte’s arguments. 

No data, no budget

NO DATA. Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman assails the lack of empirical data to back the request to extend the Mindanao martial law.

Lagman, meanwhile, focused his line of questioning on data. He asked newly minted Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Lieutenant General Benjamin Madrigal how many “remnants” of rebels were still in Mindanao and how many arrests had been made so far.

Madrigal said there are a total of 2,435 rebels left – 424 ASG fighters with 254 firearms, the BIFF with 264 fighters and 254 firearms, DI with 111 fighters and 91 firearms, and 1,636 communist rebels.

He said 143 people were arrested and charged in court for rebellion.

But Madrigal admitted that the proposed P3.757-trillion budget for 2019 does not provide for any allocations for another year-long extension of martial law in Mindanao. 

The AFP chief also could not provide any data when Lagman asked for growth, inflation, and poverty incidence rates in Mindanao in the first quarter of 2018 as well as during the 4th quarter, from October to the present day.

“We have no data, your honor,” said Madrigal. 

Lagman then question the lack of data to justify the martial law extension in Mindanao.

“I am asking these questions, Madam Speaker, Mister President, because there have been these repeated claim that martial law contributed to the development and growth in Mindanao. But how can this be validated when there is no empirical data in which this claim can be anchored?” asked the opposition congressman. –

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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 or tweet @maracepeda.