Martial law extension needed for ‘public safety’ – Mindanao congressmen

Mara Cepeda
Martial law extension needed for ‘public safety’ – Mindanao congressmen
'If there are indeed abuses as what other sectors claim to, why are we, Mindanaons, still craving for the continued implementation of martial law?' asks Misamis Occidental 2nd District Representative Henry Oaminal

MANILA, Philippines – Several Mindanao congressmen said the extension of martial law in Mindanao for another year would protect “public safety” in the region.

During the joint session of Congress on Wednesday, December 12, Deputy Speaker and South Cotabato 2nd District Representative Ferdinand Hernandez agreed with the assessment of security officials that rebellion still persisted in the southern island. 

President Rodrigo Duterte got Congress approval for a third extension of martial rule in his home region to quell rebellion there.

Hernandez cited the bombings in Mindanao in the past year, including one in his own province and in Sultan Kudarat, to justify his support for the extended martial law.

“These events, along with other circumstances backed by credible intelligence reports, show that rebellion still endures and public safety requires the continued implementation of martial law,” said Hernandez. 

Duterte first declared martial law in Mindanao after government troops clashed with homegrown terrorists in Marawi City on May 23, 2017. Even after declaring Marawi liberated from terrorists in October 2017, Duterte got Congress approval to extend the imposition of martial law by 6 months in July 2017, and by a year in December 2017.

With the latest extension, Mindanao would be under martial law for a total of over two and a half years, or from May 23, 2017, to December 31, 2019 – nearly half of Duterte’s term.

During the joint session, however, opposition lawmakers pointed out that there was no actual armed rebellion ongoing in Mindanao nor was there enough empirical data to back the move.

Alliance of Concerned Teachers Representative France Castro also said her brief detention in Davao del Norte over supposed trumped-up charges of child abuse, kidnapping, and human trafficking was proof of human rights violations in Mindanao under martial law.

‘Unceasing threats’

Misamis Occidental 2nd District Representative Henry Oaminal, however, begged to differ.

“If there are indeed abuses as what other sectors claim to, why are we, Mindanaons, still craving for the continued implementation of martial law?” asked Oaminal. 

He explained that he saw for himself the “serenity, security, and order” brought about by martial law in Mindanao. Like Hernandez, he said there was a need to extend martial law so Mindanao may “fully regain the security and peace we once had.”

“Indeed, we cannot simply turn a blind eye on the unceasing threats, disturbance, and disorder caused by insurgents and rebels who continue to pester the lives of Mindanaons, not to mention the drug lords who maintain their private armies,” said Oaminal. 

But Marawi residents still not home 

Lanao del Norte 1st District Representative Khalid Dimaporo said he too supported the martial law extension because it was “critical” in establishing peace and order in his province. 

Still, he said he would withdraw his support should there be any clear abuse and violations of Mindanaons’ constitutional rights.

He then assailed Task Force Bangon Marawi – the group in charge of rehabilitating war-torn Marawi City – for not allowing residents to return to their homes found in the most affected areas or ground zero of the war.  Rehabilitation efforts just kicked off after months of delay. 

“What legal right or legal document does Task Force Bangon Marawi have to prevent residents from entering their respective communities? It is understood that civilians could not enter the battle zone during the war against ISIS (Islamic State) and the Maute. The war is over,” said Dimaporo.

He said Marawi residents should be allowed to return home and rebuild their lives.

“Under our Constitution, we provide our citizens with rights. Under the Bill of Rights, it strictly states that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. Marawi residents are being barred by soldiers from entering their areas and because the soldiers have been ordered so. Is that not a violation of their constitutional rights?” said Dimaporo. – 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.