A Duterte ally in the House of Representatives on Thursday rallied behind the possible extension of military rule in Mindanao beyond end-December 2018 if and when recommended by the military top brass and the Palace.
Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte, vice chairman of the House Committee on National Defense and Security, said. “I am inclined to support a third extension of martial law in Southern Philippines once such a recommendation is made by the military leadership.”
He issued this statement after Armed Forces chief Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. said the military might seek an extension of martial law following such a request from many local government units across the island.
Galvez was quoted as saying that LGU officials in Mindanao want to ensure that the island will be cleansed of terrorist groups that are sowing fear and violence.
“Maraming mga LGUs and government officials that are looking for the extension,” Galvez reportedly said.
Party-list Representatives Jericho Nograles of PBA and Makmod Mending Jr. of Anak Mindanao said Congress could still act on the martial law extension in the event the Palace request for it, despite the fact the May 2019 elections is fast approaching.
“Despite the Christmas rush and election fever, Members of Congress will respond and act immediately on any concern of national significance. Should there be any debate on the extension of martial law, Congress will be there,” said Nograles, a deputy majority leader.
“In my opinion, martial law in Mindanao has not hindered economic growth. In fact, the feeling of security has increased and gave businessmen a more stable economic environment,” Nograles said.
Mending, a member of the House national defense and security committee, agreed with Nograles.
“If the President asks for it, I am sure it will be acted upon.”
Earlier, Presidential Spokesman and Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said that President Duterte last week convened the executive committee (EC) of the NSC to determine if there is a need to seek congressional approval for another extension of martial law in the South.
Villafuerte said “the clamor of various groups to extend military rule for the third time on the island should be considered by the Congress in deliberating on whether to grant the extension—if and when the military and Malacañang asks for it.”
“We should give more weight to the inputs of the people living in Mindanao in considering a request for the extension of martial law on the island. Mindanaoans are the ones experiencing what it’s like to live under martial law for a year-and-a-half now, so they would have a better grasp of what is an acceptable option for them for continued peace and security,” Villafuerte said.
He cited, for instance, the observation of Ozamiz Archbishop Martin Jumoad, who said that crime incidents in Mindanao have declined since martial law was enforced.
The Catholic leader also said military rule helped enforce discipline among the people in the South, with law enforcers performing their duties in a professional and respectful manner. Jumoad also noted that unlike the Marcos-era martial law, the freedom of expression and freedom of the press are still very much alive in Mindanao.
Villafuerte said the people have no reason to be apprehensive over the possible extension of martial rule in Mindanao, considering that there have been no reports of widespread violations by the military or police on the island ever since it was first imposed in May last year.
President Duterte first ordered martial law in Mindanao on May 23, 2017, after local terrorists laid siege on Marawi City.
He asked for a five-month extension that lasted until Dec. 31, 2017 after the 60-day declaration lapsed in July. A second extension was granted by the Congress continuing the period of martial until Dec. 31, 2018.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), meanwhile, said it has yet to receive any documented human rights violations or complaints amid the implementation of martial law in Mindanao.
AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo made the statement in an interview with reporters Wednesday, noting that martial law in Mindanao is being implemented with respect for human rights.
“Martial law (is being) implemented (with respect) for human rights, we enforce it with adherence to existing laws (and) so far wala tayong nakukuhang dokumentadong mga reklamo sa ginagawa nating pag-iimplement ng martial law (we are still to receive any documented complaints regarding our implementation of martial law),” Arevalo said.
Earlier, the AFP spokesperson said the military is inclined to recommend the extension of martial law in Mindanao.
“Well, yun nga ang sinasabi natin, successful yung ating conduct ng security (operations). (As we said, our conduct of security operations are successful) but we have to sustain those gains and even yung (the) local governments, marami sa kanila ang nagpahayag ng kagustuhan, sa pamamagitan ng mga statements na in-issue nila (many of them expressed desire through their statements which they issued), some have issued resolutions wanting to continue the implementation of martial law in Mindanao, so kinakalap natin lahat itong mga inputs na ito para ating pag-aralan upang sa ganun makakuha tayo ng conclusive additions dun sa mga (we are collecting all these inputs which we will study so we can obtain conclusive additions to the) reasons if we are to extend martial law ,” he added.
“But more likely, the AFP will recommend its extension base dun sa mga initial na nabanggit ko (from what I have initially mentioned),” said Arevalo, who declined to give a specific timeframe on its extension.
Malacañang earlier said it would depend on the recommendation of the AFP on whether martial law will be extended after the end of the year.
Martial law in Mindanao was declared on May 23, 2017 following attacks launched by the Maute Group in Marawi City.
The House of Representatives, in a special joint session in July last year, granted the extension of martial law until Dec. 31, 2017 at the President’s request.
The Senate and House of Representatives, convening in a joint session early December, subsequently granted President Rodrigo Duterte’s request for the extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus for a period of one year from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2018. With PNA