Arroyo favors extending martial law in Mindanao

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FORMER president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is in favor of extending martial law in Mindanao, if President Rodrigo Duterte asks for it.

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On Saturday, Arroyo answered in the affirmative when asked if she was in favor of an extension beyond the maximum 60 days under the Constitution, which will require congressional approval.

“If he asks for it, yes,” Arroyo, referring to Duterte, told reporters in an interview after her keynote speech before the Inner Wheel Clubs of the Philippines in Makati City.

Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao after the Islamic State-linked Maute group attacked Marawi City on May 23.

Duterte’s martial law, under Proclamation 216, is being questioned before the Supreme Court, following the decision of the Senate and the House of Representatives not to convene in joint session to discuss the declaration.

Opposition lawmakers opposing military rule also argued before the tribunal that there was no basis to place the entire Mindanao under martial law, as the attack was confined to Marawi City in Lanao del Sur province.

Moreover, they claimed there was no invasion or rebellion endangering public safety that could justify Proclamation 216, which also suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus and effectively allowed warrantless arrests.

The Supreme Court en banc will vote on July 4 on petitions seeking to junk President Duterte’s martial law declaration.

The vote will be ahead of the 30-day period within which the high court must decide on petitions against the martial law declaration, which falls on July 5; as well as t he end of the maximum 60-day duration of martial law under the 1987 Constitution, which falls on July 22.

‘Four-square behind Duterte’

In her speech, Arroyo expressed support for the President’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

“The war in Marawi carries with it the issue of the declaration of martial law in Mindanao. And I’d like to use this opportunity to stand four-square behind President Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao,” Arroyo said.

“I’ve been president…and being a president…you have information that others do not have. They help you make a decision but you cannot share all the information with others. So therefore it is important that we just trust the President because he knows what we don’t know and he knows what he’s doing. So let us all support the martial law of President Duterte in Mindanao,” she added.

In late 2009, then President Arroyo declared martial law in Maguindanao province following a massacre there that left 58 civilians, including 32 journalists, dead.

The victims were slain on their way to the Commission on Elections office in Shariff Aguak for the filing of the certificate of candidacy of then-Buluan vice mayor Esmael Mangudadatu, who was running against the powerful Ampatuan clan in the 2010 gubernatorial election.

Arroyo lifted martial law after eight days and upon the Cabinet’s recommendation.

In the same speech on Saturday, Arroyo said Duterte “has shown awesome leadership and resolve” in the programs that he aimed to do.

“In the first year that he just completed yesterday, he instituted bold reforms against illegal drugs and corruption. And speaking as an economist, I’d like to add that his ‘Build, Build, Build’ initiative is commendable and is a step in the right direction towards sustaining our robust economic growth. You know our economic growth today is one of the best in the world. So ‘Build, Build, Build’ will sustain that,” she said.

“But beyond his accomplishments of the technical work as President, one thing that the President has done is to inspire and unite the Filipino people towards his goal of effecting real change in the country —pagbabago [change]. So let’s all wish him the best as he begins his second year and the best of health for the rest of his term as he fulfills his mandate for the nation and for the people,” Arroyo said.

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