For the third time, Congress on Wednesday approved the request of President Rodrigo Duterte to further extend the implementation of martial law and suspension of writ of habeas corpus in the island of Mindanao for one more year.
With a total 235 affirmative votes, 28 negative votes and one abstention, the Senate and the House of Representatives jointly approved the motion of Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri and House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya to extend martial rule in Mindanao from January 1 to December 31, 2019.
A total of 12 senators voted to approve Duterte's request while five senators voted against it and one abstained.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senators Gregorio Honasan II, Panfilo Lacson, Richard Gordon, Cynthia Villar, Grace Poe, Aquilino Pimentel III, Jose Victor Ejercito, Juan Edgardo Angara, Sherwin Gatchalian, and Manny Pacquiao voted for the approval of the extension.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, Senators Francis Pangilinan, Paolo Benigno Aquino, Risa Hontiveros, and Francis Escudero rejected the martial extension while Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto abstained from voting.
On the part of the House of Representatives, 223 congressmen voted to extend martial law in Mindanao, 23 voted against it while no one abstained.
Duterte placed the entire island of Mindanao under martial law on May 23 last year after the ISIS-inspired Maute group attacked and destroyed Marawi City.
Initially valid for only 60 days, Congress, upon request of Duterte, approved the extension of martial law in the region twice, and is expected to end on December 31 this year.
In requesting for another extension, Duterte said significant progress in putting the rebellion under control has been achieved during the implementation of martial law in the region and it also resulted in economic gains.
There is also a need to extend martial rule in the region as the security assessment submitted by the police and the military highlights “certain essential facts which indicate that rebellion still persists in Mindanao and that public safety requires the continuation of martial law in the whole of Mindanao," Duterte said.
The Abu Sayyaf group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Daulah Islamiyah, and other terrorist groups continue to defy the government by perpetrating hostile activities, he added.
The President said the extension of martial law will enable the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, and 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.
But opposition lawmakers said there is no actual rebellion happening in Mindanao to warrant a further extension of martial law in Mindanao.
At the same time, they argued that another extension of martial law in Mindanao would lead to further violation of human rights of the residents of the region.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, however, allayed the fears of the lawmakers and assured that further martial law extension would not cause the abuse of the rights of the people in Mindanao.
Congress first approved the extension of martial law in Mindanao on the day before martial law in the region was supposed to be lifted after its initial 60-day implementation.
On December 13, 2017, Congress approved the President's request to extend martial law in Mindanao a second time, this time until December 31 this year. —KG, GMA News