Minority senators oppose extension of martial law in Mindanao

MANILA, Philippines – Minority senators on Friday, December 8, expressed their opposition to the extension of martial law in Mindanao – a recommendation from the Philippine National Police (PNP) that is also supported by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

In a statement, senators Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Franklin Drilon, Risa Hontiveros, Francis Pangilinan, and Antonio Trillanes IV said they support the position of Mindanaoans for "no martial law extension in their home island."

The already-extended martial law in the south is set to end on December 31. The PNP has recommended to the President to extend it for a year, citing continuting threat of terrorism and the need to fast-track the rehabilitation of Marawi City. 

"Martial law, together with the air strikes, was the reason why they fled Marawi in the early days of the Maute siege. And martial law is also the reason why they are afraid to return, even in cleared areas," the senators said.

They said that, according to citizens themselves, lifting martial law, specifically in Marawi, would hasten the return of those affected by the almost 5-month conflict. (READ: Marawi City liberated – Duterte)

"As security forces reign supreme during martial law, would not military rule actually get in the way of a people-centered rebuilding and rehabilitating of the once-vibrant city? What is the need for martial law? Would martial law suspend bidding in the reconstruction of the city?" the minority senators asked.

'No legal basis'

In a separate statement, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the PNP’s recommendation to extend martial law "has no factual and legal basis and is patently unconstitutional."

"There is no legal basis for the AFP and PNP to recommend an extension of martial law in Mindanao. We cannot continuously place Mindanao under martial law and suspend the privilege of the writ without an actual rebellion in the region. The Constitution requires the existence of actual rebellion or actual invasion [for a declaration]," Drilon noted.

The PNP recommended the extension for two reasons: to address "continuing threats of terrorists or extremist groups" in Mindanao, and "to facilitate Marawi rehabilitation." The AFP also wants an extension to address security threats persisting in Mindanao after the Marawi siege.

According to Drilon, however, the AFP and PNP’s grounds for extending martial law "do not meet the requirements of the Constitution."

The senator instead urged both the PNP and AFP to exercise their powers under their respective charters without extending martial law for one more year.

Meanwhile, Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito said that, based on his conversations with locals, businessmen, and local government officials in Mindanao, "they are all satisfied with martial law in Mindanao."

"Warlords, private armies, cannot move around and their movements are now restricted. Likewise, [the] problem of thousands of loose firearms in Mindanao can now be addressed with martial law in effect," he said in a statement sent to reporters.

Ejercito said he had been to Mindanao at least 4 times since Duterte declared martial law. "Ordinary folks feel that they are safer and there is now a level playing field as a result of restriction of movements of private armies," he added. – Rappler.com

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.