MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang hailed as a "positive development" the decision of the two chambers of Congress to again extend martial law in Mindanao.
"We thank our lawmakers for sharing the Executive's view that the extension is purely intended for the general welfare and well-being of the people of Mindanao," said Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo in a statement on Wednesday, December 12.
Only a few hours before, the Senate and the House of Representatives voted to grant President Rodrigo Duterte's request to extend martial law until December 31, 2019.
Panelo said the extension, the 3rd extension of military rule so far, will greatly help the government quell "rebellion" in Mindanao.
"With the continuation of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, we expect to achieve substantial progress in addressing the persisting rebellion in Mindanao, as well as promoting the overall security and peace and order situation in the island," said the spokesman.
Malacañang also vowed that soldiers and police will not abuse their powers during another year of martial law.
"Rest assured that the fundamental rights and liberties of our citizens shall at all times be respected and that our uniformed services shall act strictly within the confines of their mandate," he said.
At the joint session where the martial law extension was discussed, opposition lawmakers spoke of human rights abuses allegedly perpetuated by government forces during martial law.
ACT Teachers Representative France Castro said her arrest in Talaingod, Davao del Norte, is one such example of a violation, describing as "laughable" the charges of child abuse, human trafficking, and kidnapping which were filed against her.
Other lawmakers also brought up cases of members of indigenous tribes being killed or detained after being labeled as members of the New People's Army.
Opposition lawmakers said there is neither an actual armed uprising in Mindanao nor is there enough empirical data to justify the granting of another extension.
The deployment of additional troops to areas needing more military presence, for instance, can be done even without martial law.
Senior Executive Deputy Secretary Michael Ong, however, said that the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, which Duterte asked for alongside martial law extension, allows the government to arrest without a warrant "persons judicially charged for rebellion or offenses inherent in or directly connected with the invasion."
This has proved "useful" for government forces in detaining supposed terrorists and rebels in order to prevent them from carrying out acts of violence. – Rappler.com
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Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.