By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, InterAksyon
Photo: File photos of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez (from Philstar) and Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus (from her Facebook page)
MANILA, Philippines — Allies of President Rodrigo Duterte at the House of Representatives vowed to support the extension of martial law in Mindanao, but lawmakers opposed to it said it won’t easily breeze through.
“Sa tingin ko, tuloy-tuloy lang ito, seriously kasi nakita naman natin in all surveys talagang pabor iyong taumbayan doon sa declaration ng martial law sa Mindanao. Ibig sabihin, na-appreciate nila kung gaano kabigat ‘yong problema,” Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said in a radio interview on Tuesday.
[I think this will just continue, seriously because we saw in all the surveys that Filipinos really support the imposition of martial law in Mindanao. This means that they appreciate the magnitude of the problem.]
While supportive of the extension, Alvarez said the President’s request for military rule in Southern Philippines to take effect until the end of the year would have to be discussed by the congressmen and senators in an executive session.
To address the crisis in Marawi City, the chief executive declared a 60-day martial law in Mindanao that started last May 23 and will expire midnight of July 22.
Congress will convene in a special session on July 22, at 9 a.m. to tackle Duterte’s request. The session was scheduled on Saturday because Congress is on break, and will convene only on July 24 for the opening of the second regular session and the State of the Nation Address of the President.
Davao Rep. Carlo Nograles said that “if on Saturday, the President will present to us the urgent need to extend martial law for another 60 days in Mindanao, I believe my colleagues and I will grant it.”
“Up to this point, the declaration of martial law has allowed government to surgically operate against the rebel terrorist groups and led to the capture of ranking rebel terrorist leaders in Davao and Lanao, among others,” he added.
But during a news conference on Tuesday, activist-lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc said they would oppose the extension.
Partylist representatives Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna, Antonio Tinio and France Castro of ACT Teachers, Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis, Emmi de Jesus of Gabriela, and Sarah Elago of Kabataan said martial law did more harm than good to the people of Marawi and the entire Mindanao.
They were hoping that the proceedings during Saturday’s special session would not be railroaded and lawmakers would be given the chance to air their views.
De Jesus and Castro said all that could be seen nearly two months after Duterte’s martial law declaration was the collateral damage such as hundreds of displaced families, who were further impoverished by the war between government troops and extremists from the Abu Sayyaf and Maute groups.
“Ang tanong: Ano ang napala ng mamamayan ng Marawi? Dapat ‘yan ang pamantayan, hindi iyong interes ng military [The question is: What good did this do for the people of Marawi? That should be the yardstick and not the interest of the military],” De Jesus said.
Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat said the extension should be justified.
“Has the AFP presented solid and concrete reasons why it needs five (more) months to annihilate Maute and IS-aligned terrorist in Marawi? Are both AFP and PNP saying that the terrorist threat has expanded beyond Lanao to include all of Mindanao and that 5 months of Martial Law is needed to control that threat?” Baguilat said.
Akbayan partylist Rep. Tom Villarin said the extension was “a whimsical proposal that has no substantive grounds other than the President’s wishes.
“It seems they are not sure when to end martial law nor do they have clear outcomes. It is sending jitters to everyone who don’t want it extended or expanded,” he said.
ACTS-OFW Rep. Aniceto John Bertiz said he would like to hear the report of the military to get an assessment of the situation on the ground.
Ako Bicol Rep. Rodel Batocabe said there should be a basis for the extension being requested by the President.
“While we trust the judgment of the president and the military, we cannot also shirk from our constitutionally mandate to make a factual determination whether the grounds provided under the Constitution are still subsisting,” he said.