Congress extends martial law in Mindanao to end of 2019

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The 17th Congress on Wednesday, December 12, approved the request of President Rodrigo Duterte to extend martial law in Mindanao for another year, or until the end of 2019.

Voting 235-28-1, the Senate and the House of Representatives also extended to December 31, 2019, the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the region, which would allow the government to arrest persons of interest without a warrant. (WATCH: LIVE: Congress joint session on martial law extension in Mindanao for 2019)

With the approved request, 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.

In the House, 223 voted for the extension, 23 voted no, and there were no abstentions.

Twelve senators voted to extend martial law, 5 voted no, while one abstained.

Those who voted yes in the Senate are Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, and Senators Gregorio Honasan II. Panfilo Lacson, Richard Gordon, Cynthia Villar, Grace Poe, Koko Pimentel, JV Ejercito, Sonny Angara, Sherwin Gatchalian, and Manny Pacquiao Pacquiao.

Senators who voted no are Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, Franklin Drilon, Francis Escudero, Risa Hontiveros, and Francis Pangilinan; while Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto abstained.

Sotto said senators who "did not take part" in the voting because of various reasons were Senators Nancy Binay, Leila de Lima, Loren Legarda Antonio Trillanes IV, and Joel Villanueva. 

He said Binay and Villanueva had to leave before the voting began, Trillanes was in Europe for a speaking engagement, while Legarda was "indisposed." De Lima is in jail.

Prior to the vote, House Majority Leader Andaya said the House believes the assessment of security officials presented to lawmakers indubitably shows a continuing rebellion in Mindanao.”

Andaya added that the House believes a "further extension of martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus will enable the AFP, PNP, and all other law enforcement agencies to finally put an end to the rebellion, ”keep it from escalating to other parts of the country, and prevent a catastrophe similar to what happened in Marawi City.”

The green light from Congress is not surprising as Duterte enjoys overwhelming support from a majority of district and party-list representatives. Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Senate President Vicente Sotto III are both allies of Duterte.

This is the 3rd extension granted to the President, who had declared martial rule in the southern island after government troops clashed with homegrown terrorists in Marawi City on May 23, 2017, sparking a months-long clash that left the city in ruins. (WATCH: Marawi in 360: Inside the War Zone

On July 18, 2017, just before his proclamation expired, Duterte requested an extension, which Congress granted until December 31, 2017. 

The President then declared Marawi liberated from terrorists in October 2017. Yet on December 8, 2017, he again requested a one-year extension until December 31, 2018. Congress granted it. 

In justifying his request for a third extension of martial law in Mindanao, Duterte said that despite the gains, “rebellion still persists in Mindanao and that the public safety requires the continuation of martial law in the whole of Mindanao.”

He cited the New People’s Army, terrorist groups such as the Abu Sayyaf Group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Daulah Islamiyah (DI), and other terrorists “which seek to promote global rebellion.”

Duterte said a further extension “will enable the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines), the PNP (Philippine National Police), and all other law enforcement agencies to finally put an end to the ongoing rebellion in Mindanao and continue to prevent the same from escalating in other parts of the country.”

Some Mindanaoan governors and mayors previously backed the recommendation of the AFP and PNP for a third martial law extension, especially in light of the plebiscite in January 2019 and the May elections.

Marawi civic leader Samira Gutoc Tomawis and the Movement Against Tyranny-Northern Mindanao are against it, citing the human rights violations that persist under the Mindanao martial law. – With Camille Elemia/Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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