Martial law to be extended in Philippine's Mindanao

Congress holds joint session on martial law extension

A joint session of the Philippine congress on Saturday approved the request of President Rodrigo Duterte to extend a 60-day martial law he imposed in the entire Mindanao in southern Philippines.

After debating for seven hours, 261 lawmakers, 16 from the Senate and 245 from the lower house, voted in favour of the extension.

The vote allows Duterte to use the military to enforce law on the island of Mindanao, parts of which have been besieged by militants pledging allegiance to Isis.

On May 23, Duterte placed the country's southern main island under martial law after members of Maute, a local group supported by fighters from Southeast Asia and the Middle East, took over Marawi, a mostly Muslim city.

Running down its statistics as of Thursday, the military said that at least 45 civilians have been killed in the city, with another 1,723 people trapped or held by the terrorists having been rescued.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said he was concurring with the President's assessment that "there is a necessity to continue the implementation of martial law until December 31 to achieve the paramount objective of restoring peace under civilian authority".

All Cebu lawmaker namely Gerald Anthony Gullas, Wilfredo Caminero, Gwendolyn Garcia, Benhur Salimbangon, Ramon Durano, Jonas Cortes, Peter John Calderon, Raul Del Mar, and Rodrigo Abellanosa favored the President's request for an extension of the martial law.

He said the rebellion in Marawi continues to persist and "we want to stop the spread of the evil ideology of terrorism and free the people of Mindanao from the tyranny of lawlessness and violent extremism".

Duterte says martial law is necessary to deal with the Islamist insurgency, but his critics accuse him of trying to seize more power.

But martial law remains a sensitive issue in the Philippines as it brings back memories of human rights abuses that occurred in the 1970s under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Under the Constitution, the President can declare martial law for an initial period of 60 days and ask for its extension in case of rebellion, invasion or when public safety requires it.

Security officials addressing Congress ahead of the vote said the law was required to stabilise the region, where supporters of IS may be inspired to stage similar uprisings in other areas of Mindanao.

"I fear that the project of extension of the martial law in Mindanao paves the way for martial law across the Philippines", said a senator, Risa Hontiveros, before the vote.

Let's remove from our minds the thinking that martial law will lead to human rights violations.

Medialdea, however, said the recovery of drugs from the Maute group in Marawi City shows the rebels' links to terror groups.

In a letter to Congress last week, Duterte stressed the need to extend martial until December 31, 2017, saying terror threat continues to hang over the Mindanao and that more time is needed to crush the terror network that plans to establish a caliphate in that region.

Defense Secretary Deflin Lorenzana on Saturday said there is no need to expand martial law to cover Luzon and Visayas amid the possible escalation of offensives by the New People's Army. "Their forces are still we can see that it is still far from over", Año said early this week.

The original martial law proclamation was made on May 23, after government troops who were supposed to arrest global terrorist Isnilon Hapilon encountered the Maute terror group in Marawi City.

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