Senator Leila de Lima on Thursday criticized President Rodrigo Duterte’s request to extend martial law in Mindanao until December this year as “excessive” and “unconstitutional.”
De Lima, a lawyer and former Justice secretary, said it is “common sense” that martial law cannot be extended beyond the original period of 60 days.
“The extension of martial law in the whole of Mindanao beyond another 60-day period is not only excessive, it is also unconstitutional,” the senator said.
“The Constitution does not contemplate that an extension can even go beyond the original period of 60 days. The wording of Section 18, Article VII conveys the common sense understanding that martial law cannot be extended beyond a second 60-day period, or a 150-day period until December 2017,” De Lima added.
Under the said provision, the President may declare martial law for a period not exceeding 60 days, “in case of invasion or rebellion” or “when the public safety requires it.”
“Upon the initiative of the President, the Congress may, in the same manner, extend such proclamation or suspension for a period to be determined by the Congress, if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it,” it further states.
Duterte has requested Congress to extend martial law until December 31, 2017, which is far longer than the 60-day period he initially declared in Mindanao, following the attack of ISIS-linked Maute group.
For De Lima, the request for a five-month extension “already smacks of authoritarian rule.”
“Not even Duterte, who is considered a god by his sycophants, can predict if martial law will still be justified beyond September, the end of a 60-day extension,” she said.
“Duterte is slowly weaning us away from constitutional democracy, towards his authoritarian designs for a perpetual martial law,” De Lima said.
Unable to attend the joint session scheduled Saturday, De Lima appealed to her colleagues in Congress to scrutinize Duterte’s request.
“It behooves Congress to seriously dig deep, and not to abdicate the grave duty and mandate it has been given by the people,” she said.
De Lima, a staunch critic of the President, is presently detained at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame over drug-related charges, which she has repeatedly denied. — RSJ, GMA News